Through English as a Window: Defining 'Being Chinese' in the 21st Century

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    Abstract

    China’s international relations have been an influential factor determining Chinese self-perceptions and how ‘foreigners’ and one of their languages, English, are perceived in the country. Between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, China’s defeats in wars and humiliations by foreign countries (mainly from the West) made English a language of ‘barbarians’, ‘military aggressors’ and ‘anti-Communists’. There is, and has always been, the distinction between ‘Chinese’ and ‘the world’ which is reflected in the principle of ‘Chinese learning for essence (ti), Western learning for utility (yong)’. The entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 and the Beijing Olympics in 2008 have signified the most active participation of China in the global community. As a global language, English is promoted as the principal language of trade partners, scientists and tourists, an essential tool for modernisation and a vehicle to ensure China’s voices are heard. Despite the eagerness to integrate into the global community, globalisation has opened up China to the world and, in learning English, Chinese people are more exposed to western cultural values and beliefs. This has presented challenges to their sense of Chinese identity. This chapter explores the idea of ‘being Chinese’ through the status of English in today’s China. It shows that the idea is less constrained by previous ideologies about learning English and more defined within Chinese people’s own imagination of ‘being modern’ and ‘being global’. English does not seem to threaten the sense of ‘being Chinese’, but rather, it is another dimension of Chinese identity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationResearching Chinese English: the State of the Art
    Editors Zhichang Xu, Deyuan He & David Deterding
    Place of PublicationSwitzerland
    PublisherSpringer International Publishing
    Pages219-231
    Edition1st
    ISBN (Print)9783319531083
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

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