Published: 12th September 2021
China rejects use of English language in educational institutions in campaign against Western influence
English is almost synonymous with China's reform and opening-up policies, which transformed an impoverished and hermetic nation into the world's second-biggest economy
In a campaign against Western influence, China is rejecting the use of the English language in its educational institutions.
Li Yuan, writing in The New York Times (NYT) said that it was hard to exaggerate the role English has played in changing China's social, cultural, economic and political landscape.
English is almost synonymous with China's reform and opening-up policies, which transformed an impoverished and hermetic nation into the world's second-biggest economy.
The education authorities in Shanghai, the most cosmopolitan city in the country, last month forbade local elementary schools to hold final exams on the English language, reported NYT.
Chinese people with an interest in English can't help but see Shanghai's decision as pushback against the language and against Western influence in general — and another step away from openness to the world.
Many call the phenomenon "reversing gears," or China's Great Leap Backward, an allusion to the disastrous industrialization campaign of the late 1950s, which resulted in the worst man-made famine in human history, says Li.
Last year, China's education authority barred primary and junior high schools from using overseas textbooks. A government adviser recommended this year that the country's annual college entrance examination stop testing English.
New restrictions this summer on for-profit, after-school tutoring chains affected companies that have taught English for years, reported NYT.
Original English and translated books are discouraged at universities, too, especially in the more sensitive subjects, such as journalism and constitutional studies, according to professors who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Three of them complained that the quality of some government-authorized textbooks suffered because some authors were chosen for their seniority and party loyalty instead of their academic qualifications.
Communist Party orthodoxy is replacing foreign texts, says Li. Elementary schools in Shanghai may not be conducting English tests, but a new textbook on "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" will be required reading in the city's elementary, middle and high schools starting this month. Each student is required to take a weekly class for a semester.
The Communist Party is intensifying ideological control and nationalistic propaganda, an effort that could turn the clock back to the 1950s and 1960s, when the country was closed off to much of the world and political campaigns overrode economic growth.
A nationalistic essay widely spread last week by Chinese official media cited "the barbaric and ferocious attacks that the U.S. has started to launch against China."
English lost its sheen after the 2008 financial crisis. Xi Jinping, China's paramount leader doesn't appear to speak it, says Li.
Now, English has become one of the signs of suspicious foreign influence, a fear nurtured by nationalist propaganda that has only worsened in tone since the outbreak of the coronavirus. As a result, China's links to the outside world are being severed one by one, reported NYT.