Identity Includes Language in China

Economist: Let not a billion tongues bloom
As for Mandarin itself, the once-artificial construct is now showing signs of becoming a living, protean thing—witness the fun around duang. That speaks to its success. But its shortfalls are also striking. The education ministry says that 30% of the population in 2014, or roughly 400m, still could not speak standardised Mandarin, while only a tenth of those who could spoke it properly.

Meanwhile, Mandarin’s supremacy is still being challenged, above all in Hong Kong. There, resentment at the spreading use of putonghua is growing. Indeed, since protests two years ago—partly in defence of a local Hong Kong identity in the face of mainland rule—Jette Hansen Edwards of the Chinese University of Hong Kong reports a sharp increase in the number of Hong Kong people who believe the local form of English, jokingly called “Kongish”, is a unique variety.

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