An immodest proposal: "Boycott the Chinese Language"

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So argues Anders Corr in the Journal of Political Risk, 7.11 (November, 2018):

"Boycott the Chinese Language: Standard Mandarin is the Medium of Chinese Communist Party Expansion"

What?  Are my eyes deceiving me?  Did he really say that?

Starting right from the first paragraph, we can see that the author is serious:

China is one of history's most dangerous countries. In August, the United Nations reported that China is holding approximately one million minority Muslims in Xinjiang concentration camps. China supports anti-democratic regimes and terrorist groups worldwide. Its military is seeking to expand its territory in: Japanese and South Korean areas of the East China Sea; Philippine, Malaysian, Bruneian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese parts of the South China Sea; and Indian and Bhutanese territory in the Himalayan mountains. President Xi Jinping has since 2013 increased military spending, hyped China's nationalism, repressed minorities and human rights activists, eliminated term limits on his increasingly personal form of rule, and extended the geographic reach and individual depth of state surveillance.

The author's opposition to "the Chinese Language" is not against all Sinitic languages per se, but only against Putonghua (Modern Standard Mandarin) as it is packaged and promoted by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party).  In fact, Corr is proactively in favor of Cantonese, Taiwanese, Shanghainese, and all the other Sinitic languages and topolects, not to speak of Tibetan, Uyghur, Mongolian, and the numerous non-Sinitic languages in the PRC that are threatened by the manner in which Putonghua is forced upon them.  What exercises Corr is the CCP's use of Putonghua as an instrument of aggrandizement, both globally and domestically.

Here are some passages from Corr's article that deal specifically with language issues:

PRC Mandarin has since 1949, when the CCP captured the Chinese state, extended the CCP's power and influence among minority language populations, for example in the provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet. PRC Mandarin is therefore a tool of CCP power, and is benefitted when democratic governments and international organizations translate the languages of democratic countries, for example Spanish, Hindi and English, into China's simplified characters. The PRC preference for "one China", which includes democratic Taiwan against its wishes, is reified when we fail to distinguish between PRC and Taiwanese Mandarin. Democratic governments support China's attempts at extension of its authoritarian system when they allow, for example, China's state-funded Confucius Institutes to teach PRC-style Mandarin on their soil. While China is actively obliterating the Tibetan, Uyghur, and other non-Mandarin languages of China, the U.S. and our democratic allies should not afford CCP-funded PRC Mandarin teachers with privileged access to our college students.

Finland faced a similar threat of authoritarian influence at the turn of the 19th century from Russia, called Russification. In their own cultural and national defense, the Finnish in 1901 used a language boycott against Russian to strengthen their independence and resist Russia's attempts at absorption, as Russia de facto annexed much of Eastern Europe following World War II. Similar language boycotts, or conscious shunning strategies, were used by European nation-builders against church Latin after the Reformation,  Icelanders against Danish starting in the 17th century, Bangladeshis against Urdu in the late 1940s, and South Africans against Afrikaans starting in 1976. All of these language movements were ways that local cultures used to resist their unwanted assimilation by outside cultures.  Today, when unwanted CCP influence is spreading worldwide, a boycott of PRC Mandarin would help relatively permeable democratic cultures resist the CCP.

Democracies respect and defend their minorities and the rights of those minorities. While democracies allow the majority to rule, they ensure the rights of minorities in their constitutions with a bill of rights or a recognition of universal human rights. Japan, the United States and the Philippines, for example, have rich linguistic histories that include speakers of many Sinitic languages and dialects, and both traditional and simplified Chinese characters. Most Philippine Sinitic speakers, for example, use the Hokkien language and traditional characters, which is different than Mandarin.

In Taiwan, the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) government from 1945 to 1987 repressed the local language, Taiwanese Hokkien, and promoted Mandarin. The Kuomintang shared a preference for Mandarin with their Communist enemies in mainland China because both parties sought to extend the influence and territory of China. Since 1945, Mandarin in Taiwan has gradually replaced Hokkien. While modern democratic Taiwan stopped repressing the Hokkien language and retains its claim to the South China Sea only to please a relatively small faction of voters, the trend of increased Standard Mandarin use there is helpful to Communist China, which seeks to remove the cultural particularities and fragile new democracy of Taiwan, and absorb the currently independent country as its own territory. In the 1990s supporters of Taiwan independence sought to differentiate between PRC and Taiwanese Mandarin, replacing the PRC's Standard Mandarin in the educational system with Taiwanese Mandarin. But they failed. They should take up the effort again if they want to improve their chances at remaining independent from the mainland.

Hong Kong is also worried about Chinese authorities forcing Mandarin on their majority, which are Cantonese speakers. A mainland Chinese professor recently ignited controversy for asserting that Cantonese is "merely a dialect" and proposing that Mandarin should be the official language of Hong Kong. When the CCP sees an opportunity, it will likely seek to replace Cantonese in Hong Kong with Mandarin. Judging from recent policy changes in Hong Kong regarding language usage in the educational system and other socioeconomic and political spheres where Mandarin is already displacing Cantonese, it could happen fairly quickly.

The CCP (and China's Nationalist Kuomintang Party before them) used Mandarin to engage in state-building throughout the 20th century. The founder of modern Chinese nationalism, Dr. Sun Yat Sen, led the 1911 revolution. He advocated democracy, but he was also a social Darwinian, allied with the Russian communists, and constructed the idea, still powerful today, of the Han race and Chinese nation as in competition with first the Manchus and then white imperialism, including a war between the "white and yellow races". The Kuomintang and then the CCP were deeply influenced by Sun Yat Sen's racist nationalism, and sidelined non-Mandarin Sinitic languages and the cultural diversity of China to concentrate power in Beijing and create the expanding nationalist state that is China today.

Let's save our multicultural bilingualism for more Taiwanese Mandarin, Hokkien, and Tagalog, for example. Let's help the smaller struggling languages worldwide, and the biggest international languages now used by democracies. Let's learn English, Spanish, Hindi, Portuguese, Bengali, Japanese, Punjabi, German, Javanese, Telugu, and French. Those in favor of democracy and reform in Vietnam should be given a podium to speak in Vietnamese. Even Standard Mandarin would be welcome, when it is spoken by Beijing's persecuted human rights lawyers. Let's recognize and support Taiwanese Mandarin for much-needed reinforcement to Taiwan's democratic independence.

These passages are presented by Corr in the context of a hard-hitting, closely reasoned denunciation of the PRC's aggressive behavior abroad and its repressive regime at home.  Corr is not opposed to Putonghua itself, but only to its use by the CCP to further its strategic, political, and ideological goals.  As such, he sees Putonghua as a legitimate target for an effective boycott aimed at the PRC's programmatic objectives around the world.

There's no doubt that the author's proposal is radical, and to some it will appear shockingly extremist.  But if one steps back and reviews his line of reasoning, one realizes that what he suggests is not outrageously unfounded.  In a sense, all political boycotts are radical, but what they are opposed to is generally something of a truly reprehensible nature.  In the author's estimation, what the Chinese government is doing in Uyghurstan, in Tibet, in Southern Mongolia, in the Southeast Asian Sea, in Africa, and elsewhere around the world, not to mention its treatment of its own citizens, requires some sort of determined response.  He has focused on Putonghua, which he views as a tool of the CCP, one that it has aggressively pushed through the Confucius Institutes (funded with hundreds of millions of dollars) and other branches of government.  In this kind of politically charged environment, the language (Putonghua) never comes alone, but always accompanied by doctrinaire diktats on Taiwan, Tibet, "Xinjiang", "Inner Mongolia", Falun Gong, and a host of other taboo topics.



55 Comments

  1. Lillie Dremeaux said,

    November 18, 2018 @ 12:02 pm

    This is fascinating. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    November 18, 2018 @ 3:46 pm

    https://twitter.com/geoff_p_wade/status/1064253219520446464

  3. J.W. Brewer said,

    November 18, 2018 @ 4:30 pm

    So, what resources are currently available to Uighurs in occupied East Turkestan who would like to learn Taiwanese as a second language?

  4. Philip Anderson said,

    November 18, 2018 @ 4:55 pm

    I think his assertion that democracies respect their linguistic minorities ignores historical examples to the contrary – the treatment of Saami and Inuit, of Welsh, Irish and Gaelic, and Breton.

  5. Bob Ladd said,

    November 18, 2018 @ 6:22 pm

    What Philip Anderson said, except I would say it more strongly. In particular, the suggestion (from Corr's article) that "European nation builders" used "conscious [language-]shunning strategies against church Latin after the Reformation" is wrong on several counts, and ignores the fact that the basic goals and some of the methods of the European nation builders were not so very different from those of the promoters of putonghua in China.

    Wrong on several counts: moves toward the wider use of European vernaculars started centuries before the Reformation; they were not language-shunning but language-promoting ("Défense et illustration de la langue française", etc. etc.); and they were hardly aimed at an alien culture aiming to impose itself.

    Similar goals: a lot of what has happened linguistically in Europe over the past millennium or so has indeed been about nation-building – specifically, creating acceptance of a single standard language across a state where only multiple often mutually unintelligible dialects existed before. Is this so different from what the PRC has been doing since 1949?

    Similar methods: There are lots of ways to persuade people to abandon their native way of speaking. Physical punishment and humiliation work well on children, and were used in many school systems in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries; exclusion from employment possibilities still works well with adults. Places with democratic forms of government use or have used these methods and some still do.

    Once a big standard language gets established, lots of people will want to learn it, and this is an important part of what drives minority languages and non-standard varieties to extinction, even without outright suppression. The Celtic languages, as Philip Anderson says, have been notable losers in this respect – in bastions of democracy like France and the UK – but they're not the only ones. The fact that the European democracies are not currently pursuing foreign policies like China's doesn't make the development of language standardisation in Europe vastly different from the ongoing development of language standardisation in China.

  6. Bathrobe said,

    November 18, 2018 @ 7:15 pm

    Much as I find the Chinese government's policies of domestic oppression/homogenisation and imperial expansion objectionable, I respectfully submit that Corr is barking up the wrong tree.

    China's trajectory of adopting Mandarin as the national language, orthographic simplification, etc. date back a century as we speak, well before the Communist party's rise to power. While Chinese still cling to their own regional Sinitic varieties, and there are no doubt people who are resisting the policies adopted a century ago (as there were then), for the most part I don't think the Chinese are opposed to a powerful China unified around a strong national language. Boycotting Mandarin would only be seen as an attack on China as a nation rather than an attack on the Communist Party, and if seriously adopted would more likely provide a nationalistic rallying point for promoting putonghua.

    China's policies on ethnic cultures go against the Manchu model and the Soviet minority nationalities model, but they have a long historical pedigree since China has long looked down on the cultures of the 'barbarians'. The current aggressive turn is a result of Chinese concepts of a 'strong state' combined with the European model of national standardisation (what Bob Ladd said). The faceless men who decide Chinese ethnic policies may be men without culture, but they do embody a long historical tradition of 'pragmatic arrogance' (if I may coin a term).

    The use of Confucius Institutes to further China's interests abroad is, I think, peculiar to the Communists — although I wouldn't have put it past the KMT if they had remained in power — but it isn't so much an attempt to promote Mandarin as an attempt to expand China's state power. (Yes, it promotes a very Han-Chinese version of China, but this only reflects the reality that the concept of "Zhonghua Minzu" is false, which most intelligent people already knew.)

    I really do think Corr is an empty vessel making loud noises. His proposal would be seen by the Chinese as an affront to their culture, not a call to resist the Communist Party. I doubt that even Donald Trump, despite his big mouth, would take it up. I am, however, waiting for Trump to say that China's claim to the South China Sea is based on "fake history". Now that would stir up a hornets' nest.

  7. A. C. said,

    November 18, 2018 @ 7:35 pm

    While the CCP is forcing an entire language on many minorities, progressives in this country are attempting to force the use of individual words and terms and forbid others, and for the same reason, to extend their power over the rest of us.

  8. AG said,

    November 18, 2018 @ 7:38 pm

    I would be legitimately astonished if Donald Trump started showing an interest in the history of Asian maritime law.

  9. AG said,

    November 18, 2018 @ 7:40 pm

    A. C. – please list all the specific words you now feel pressured not to say, and then explain why you personally need to continue saying them, and then please describe why this is an important issue for you. I'll wait.

  10. John Huston said,

    November 18, 2018 @ 7:59 pm

    After many long decades of suppression in the media, Taiwanese is now used freely in TV presentations. BUT….it is not generally used in "full" presentations. It is only thrown into the Mandarin "main dish" like a dash of salt and twist of lemon. I think the KMT program of outright suppression followed by prolonged benign neglect has basically worked. Taiwanese no longer grows and expands. It's wilting on the vine. Not dying yet, but it'll eventually get there. Can you go to a job interview and just speak all Taiwanese? The other factor is the presence of a lot of other co-claimant languages in Taiwan. There's Hakka (of several kinds) with influence in its spheres of influence and lots of aboriginal languages that are so different and fractionated that there isn't even a single radio program in any of them that I know of and nothing written except Christian religious tracts, which was always allowed. Much public transportation runs announcements in a heap of languages and dialects…."Your attention, please. We are about to arrive at Fuli Station. Please get your ticket ready and do not forget your belongings." This comes repeated in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, Amis, Taroko, Bunong, English, and many others, depending on location. It borders on the absurd.

  11. J.W. Brewer said,

    November 18, 2018 @ 8:34 pm

    It is certainly true that current PRC policy toward regional/minority languages is probably neither worse than, nor all that different from, policies employed domestically by certain European powers within the last few centuries. The question is what one is to do with that knowledge. Are those westerners who have inherited a status quo that was historically formed in part through brutal and illiberal means barred from condemning brutality and illiberalism elsewhere on pain of being thought hypocrites? Or might they have especially good insight into why other nations now ought to avoid similar bits of brutality and illiberalism? Some third option?

  12. Bathrobe said,

    November 18, 2018 @ 8:41 pm

    I see that I am not the first one to use ""pragmatic arrogance"…

  13. Alex said,

    November 18, 2018 @ 10:46 pm

    @AG

    Let's start with the word fat. When I was growing up people would say to kids you are getting a little fat. Now it seems that's not to be used.

    What's interesting here in the PRC is people say it to others all the time. Usually they are trying to be helpful. They say it for health reasons or that you are beginning to look in unattractive. I have had many of surprised western friends when people of all walks of life casually point out they should lose some weight.

    Why is it important to be able to say to someone, looks like you have gained a little weight? Or you've gotten fat. Well for one you deny the person from being helped.

    The list can go on with many other words one can freely express here in the PRC but not back in the good ole US of A

  14. Ricardo said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 12:07 am

    Interesting post. I'm curious to know why Prof. Mair used the designation 'Uyghurstan'? I have never seen it before and in what sense is it official/widely recognized?

  15. Lameen said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 3:12 am

    Seriously? This guy writes an article proposing the boycott of Chinese for being aggressively expansionist, in English? Let me know when it appears in Cherokee, or Cree or Pitjantjatjara or Gaelic…

    To be clear, I am second to none in my horror of what the Chinese government is doing right now in Xinjiang or Tibet. And putting your fingers in your ears by refusing to learn "its" language sounds like a great way to ensure that you're in no position even to comment on what's happening, much less stop it. This reminds me of the days when Egypt used to cut articles on Israel out of imported encyclopedias. Self-awareness and awareness of other people (_especially_ those you consider as enemies) are both good things.

  16. ajay said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 6:23 am

    I think his assertion that democracies respect their linguistic minorities ignores historical examples to the contrary

    There is a difference between "respect" and "have always respected". To pick the one I'm most familiar with, Gaelic is receiving a fair amount of respect from its government right now. There are bilingual signs even in places like the south-east where Gaelic has never historically been spoken and where there is a tiny number even of S2 Gaelic speakers, Parliament (though it debates in English) uses Gaelic as an operating language, schools in the Gaeltacht support the use of Gaelic etc.

  17. ajay said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 6:28 am

    Let's start with the word fat. When I was growing up people would say to kids you are getting a little fat. Now it seems that's not to be used.

    No, this is wrong. You are still allowed to use the word "fat" – it is not taboo any more than the word "ignorant" or "bigoted" or "out-of-touch reactionary old fool who complains about political correctness because people have started calling him on his habit of being gratuitously insulting". It is, however, insulting – as it has been for many decades – to point out to people that they're fat, just as it would be insulting to point out to someone that he sounds like an ignorant, bigoted, out-of-touch reactionary old fool who complains about political correctness because people have started calling him on his habit of being gratuitously insulting, even if he does in fact sound like an ignorant, bigoted, out-of-touch reactionary old fool who complains about political correctness because people have started calling him on his habit of being gratuitously insulting.

  18. Alex said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 7:47 am

    Clearly some people are totally "ignorant" of what one considers insulting changes over time and are very provincial in their cultural understanding of what is insulting.

  19. Bathrobe said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 7:52 am

    @ Alex

    Whether you can acceptably call a person "fat" is a cultural issue. It's ok in China but not in the West. The opposite may also be true. In China there are no doubt culturally taboo expressions that would not raise eyebrows in Western countries. This generally doesn't relate to PC issues (although it could). It's a matter of culture.

  20. Alex said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 8:03 am

    @ AJAY

    insult
    "a disrespectful or scornfully abusive remark or action."
    "speak to or treat with disrespect or scornful abuse."

    So what your saying is when my father says to me "hey I saw the video of you your sons, they've gained a little weight and are getting fat"

    or if I see a picture of an overweight person and a leaner person and I say I choose to use "fat" as a description of the photo I select then I'm insulting them? and if I use the "heavier" is that "better" or is that just as insulting?

  21. Alex said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 8:27 am

    @bathrobe

    For clarification. I was born and raised in Cherry Hill NJ. I lived in the US for 37 years. I moved to China 11 years ago.

    I agree and have said its cultural. On your point about the West, that is my other point, it depends on what time period. In my youth the doctor could easily say to someone your getting a little fat or just fat and most people wouldn't take that as an insult. Or someone can say you should lose some weight you are too fat. Or they can say wow you've become fat after not seeing you for some time ( like in my post wrestling days). I went from making weight for wrestling to college and cheese steaks and truck sandwiches. Now, as in the only the past decade, it seems people are becoming afraid to say the word fat. I've never heard the term "fat shaming" while growing up and living in the States. I lived in Philadelphia for 12 years starting from university. You can say I got around while there and never heard the term. I even hung out with DNC people like Rendell and his crowd. It seem this hyper PC phenomenon occurred after I left in late 07.

  22. Anders Corr said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 9:46 am

    All, Thanks for your very interesting comments! Ciao, Anders

  23. BZ said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 12:03 pm

    And by boycotting other languages, aren't you doing exactly what China is doing? Dictating what languages people are allowed to speak? Who does this help exactly? China is just as adept at translating its propaganda into, say, English, so it doesn't help shield anyone from propaganda. It only hinders communication. How can that be good?

    I have no idea what Finland's boycott entailed, but the Soviet Union did, as a matter of policy, give secondary status to local languages in republics within its border, and translated propaganda to such. It's hard for me to believe they couldn't target Finland in its own language had it wanted to.

  24. Jake said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 12:05 pm

    If this claim is true: "Democracies respect and defend their minorities and the rights of those minorities." I guess Corr is just another one of those tiresome people who keep reminding everybody that the US is a Republic, not a Democracy.

  25. DHD said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 2:55 pm

    The language boycott in Finland would have taken place while Finland was still part of the Russian Empire. At first, the Soviet Union's minority language policy was positively enlightened compared to anywhere else in the world, maybe even in all of history (notably compared to Norway next door which was actively suppressing Sámi and Finnic languages with the same vigour as other democratic countries like Canada were doing to their indigenous languages at the time). There are probably quite a few interesting articles about it in the archives here.

    Of course, the policy eventually tilted back to more or less full-on Russification, this time including actual mass deportations/executions/starvation of the linguistic minorities in question. And at no point during any of this was the Soviet Union "democratic" in any meaningful sense of the word. The PRC's actions look pretty mild in contrast, which doesn't make them acceptable, but still…

  26. Philip Taylor said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 6:47 pm

    Re. "fat". One of the first things that I was taught when I started learning Mandarin Chinese is that "how old are you", when addressed to an elderly Chinese person, is a respectful and much-appreciated question; in the West, such a question would rarely if ever be asked other than in a purely professional context. As to changing fashions/acceptableness — When I was young (say 60+ years ago), a dark-skinned person from Africa or the West Indies would invariably be referred to as "coloured"; the term was used because "black" was felt to be pejorative. Times changed, and many (previously) "coloured" people started to prefer to be called "black". Times changed again, and now I read more and more frequently of "persons of colour", just as in aviation fora I find frequent mentions of "persons of size". I often wonder how long it will be before "coloured person" becomes the norm once again.

  27. Philip Anderson said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 7:43 pm

    Ajay:
    I agree that the situation has changed for the better, but only relatively recently and with a certain amount of pressure from the EU. That's why I said "historical examples". But official support doesn't prevent popular linguaphobia – people have been verbally and physically attacked for not speaking English in the UK.

    My point was that a democracy is not intrinsically more tolerant of minorities; in general, nation states have demanded more uniformity than autocracies. But we need to remember democracy is a process, not an absolute, and each advance had to be fought for; so, more thanks and less pride. Of course we should argue for linguistic rights, but not on the basis of "our democracy is better than your dictatorship".

  28. Eidolon said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 9:27 pm

    > Seriously? This guy writes an article proposing the boycott of Chinese for being aggressively expansionist, in English? Let me know when it appears in Cherokee, or Cree or Pitjantjatjara or Gaelic…

    According to Corr, it's because English is one of "the biggest international languages now used by democracies." Corr's point is that we should promote languages used in liberal democracies and oppose languages used in repressive dictatorships. Hence why he advocates the promotion of, for example, English, German, French, and Taiwanese Mandarin, despite the latter being more or less mutually intelligible with Standard Mandarin and despite the former three all being popular majority languages.

    The author is clearly mostly concerned with using the boycotts symbolically, as a way of protesting the Communist Party. Thus, since Standard Mandarin is promoted by the Communist Party, it should be boycotted, like Chinese phones. It's more about making a point than about the practical effects of boycotting Standard Mandarin.

    As to what those effects would be, I imagine it'd be along the lines of the current trade war: a reciprocal boycott of English, German, French, etc. by the Chinese. To be sure, this would have a much larger effect on China's language policy and linguistic situation than the boycott of Standard Mandarin in the US, Germany, France, etc. would. After all, the number of people in the West learning Standard Mandarin is minuscule, while English is a very popular language of study in China. If the logic that the side that stands to lose the most in a trade war is the one that exports the most, then with respect to language, that party is most certainly going to be English – the most popular cultural export in the world.

  29. Eidolon said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 9:44 pm

    In the above, "in liberal democracies" should be "by liberal democracies" and "in repressive dictatorships" should be "by repressive dictatorships," to preserve the original nuance.

  30. DMT said,

    November 19, 2018 @ 11:24 pm

    In the 1990s supporters of Taiwan independence sought[link] to differentiate between PRC and Taiwanese Mandarin, replacing the PRC's Standard Mandarin in the educational system with Taiwanese Mandarin. But they failed.

    And from the article by Bernardine Racoma (linked at "sought"):

    In the 1990's, supporters of Taiwan independence fought for the replacement of the Standard Mandarin to Taiwanese Mandarin to promote the country's identity. This effort has not however succeeded….

    Racoma's article accurately describes some of the differences between PRC Standard Mandarin and ROC Standard Mandarin (while unfortunately perpetuating the usual conflation of language and script), but I don't think it makes sense to refer to the latter as "Taiwanese Mandarin". These two standard forms of Mandarin differ from one another about as much as US and British English, and it is hard to imagine that adopting ROC Mandarin will somehow help propagate democracy.

    The idea that Taiwan independence supporters during the 1990s tried and failed to promote "Taiwanese Mandarin" in opposition to "PRC Mandarin" is also incorrect, as far as I know: ROC Standard Mandarin was then and remains today the standard form of the language taught in Taiwanese Guoyu textbooks. Perhaps, however, there is an interesting story behind this claim that has become distorted in Racoma's recounting? If there is, I would be interested to learn more.

  31. Alex said,

    November 20, 2018 @ 12:58 am

    @eidolon

    For manufacturing the exporter loses as most good are fungible in regards to manufacturing. If the US doesn't import them from China many manufacturers could easily relocate relatively quickly within a few years if thing became serious.

    As for language would china swap out of Spanish? or would they just not swap and focus on promoting only mandarin locally and try to use soft and medium power to make their language more widely accepted?

    In fact i have seen soft signs of testing this. Relatively recently preschools and private English centers were told kids had to wait until primary school to be taught English. The rational given was they wanted kids to play more.

    When I asked most parents about this, most said the gov shouldn't interfere what their child learns outside of regular school.

    That said i have first hand knowledge that some preschools have had to ask their waijiao teacher to not show up on days the gov sent someone to audit the preschool.

    On a side note because I love beating the dead horse. I asked 20 parents to write the word 毽 zi a common toy used to exercise and not one could including my wife. I did this because my first grade son needed to write several sentences with this word. So there is no worry that Chinese will ever take off anywhere along the belt and road.

    and yes English as a language is the biggest form of soft power.

  32. Alex said,

    November 20, 2018 @ 12:59 am

    sorry for the typos typing quickly while moving

  33. Eidolon said,

    November 20, 2018 @ 4:15 am

    @Alex

    I'd expect them to curtail the use of English, and to double down on Standard Mandarin, which would be detrimental to the development of English in China; but that assumes a serious political boycott, which will not happen, both because Standard Mandarin is not popular enough in the West for it to be used as a stick, and because any such boycott would most likely spark domestic political controversy and consequently back fire. The predominant speakers of Standard Mandarin, in the West, are Chinese exchange students and immigrants; calling upon them to boycott the language is not likely to go over well.

  34. Anders Corr said,

    November 20, 2018 @ 7:05 am

    Thanks for the continued interesting discussion. Examples of how a boycott could manifest that would not be a law against PRC Mandarin:

    1. A Filipino in Manila who is not sure about whether to study Mandarin or Hindi might choose Hindi because of the boycott. If many Filipino youth did this, it would marginally decrease the power of the PRC in Manila, and increase the power of Delhi.

    2. A Taiwan democracy activist could confront a university administrator in the U.S. over their support for Confucius Institutes — saying there is a boycott against PRC Mandarin, and the CI teaches simplified characters. This could be a chance to education the administrator about the ethical issues of cooperating with the PRC on CIs.

    3. A Hong Kong democracy activist could strengthen her resolve to maintain Cantonese programs in schools or universities and resist new Mandarin language programs.

    4. A Taiwan government official could be encouraged to suggest more use of particular Taiwan Mandarin language forms to textbook writers. A filmmaker could be encouraged to use such Taiwan language forms in their films. Use of Taiwan styles of speech would thus be an opportunity to resist PRC influence (as they probably already are).

    These grassroots forms of resistance (Weapons of the Weak — see James Scott) would be designed to resist the PRC without inspiring the PRC to react negatively. They would ideally not ban English in response, which they are likely already seeking to do anyway in incremental ways (see comments above).

    But if the PRC did take such an overt action against English on the mainland, it might inspire a stronger response by democratic governments against the PRC. In the context of increasing PRC political and economic influence globally, a brighter line division between the PRC and the democratic world may actually be helpful in pressuring the PRC to reform on democracy and human rights issues.

    Anders

  35. riclambo@hotmail.com said,

    November 20, 2018 @ 7:56 am

    While mildly intriguing, Anders Corr's ideas seem to me fantastically silly. Should we boycott khaleeji arabic because of the Saudi government's involvement in the Khashoggi murder? Should we boycott russian over the situation in the Crimean? Should the german language have been boycotted during the years of the Nazi regime. Where does he stand on burmese and hebrew?

    And we are indeed lucky that so many languages spoken among the people's of greater China. But what if there weren't? How far do his principles go? Would we simply have to give up on the language all together or ressurect some dead variant of it?

    I have a somewhat better idea. If you indeed take serious, almost personal, opposition to the actions of a certain government, might it not be better to study closely the language it uses. Isn't that, in fact, what any half-competent intelligence service actually does?

  36. Alex said,

    November 20, 2018 @ 8:17 am

    @Eidolon
    @Anders Corr

    A subtle way would be to teach/use pure pinyin outside of China. I saw the entries about pinyin being mainland but it seems its universal now.

    So to me if outside of China people just started using and teaching pure pinyin it would draw a response.

    Whats funny is suddenly learning would be faster outside of China. Would the response be to ban pinyin or to follow? Banning would destroy the learning of Chinese here so I doubt they would do that.

  37. Scott P. said,

    November 20, 2018 @ 11:05 am

    Times changed again, and now I read more and more frequently of "persons of colour", just as in aviation fora I find frequent mentions of "persons of size". I often wonder how long it will be before "coloured person" becomes the norm once again.

    "People of color" ≠ "colored people"

    http://i.imgur.com/4y4YTOq.jpg

  38. Philip Taylor said,

    November 20, 2018 @ 1:32 pm

    I think I'm with Ma on this one, Scott — sorry !

  39. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 20, 2018 @ 2:42 pm

    Bob Ladd: There are lots of ways to persuade people to abandon their native way of speaking. Physical punishment and humiliation work well on children, and were used in many school systems in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries;

    And in the U.S., as with indigenous languages, and with Spanish here in New Mexico and probably other places.

    Philip Taylor: It's just a fact that in the U.S., "person of color" means "person who isn't white", so it's a much bigger category than "colored person" was. Maybe the usage is different in the U.K.

    I don't remember seeing "person of size" before, and I'd have taken it to be a joke if you hadn't said you see it often. Does it include us people whose problem on airplanes is leg room, not side room?

  40. Anders Corr said,

    November 20, 2018 @ 5:14 pm

    Riclambo, I do of course think that the US defense and intelligence communities should study various forms of Mandarin. But regular citizens who believe in democracy can also make their voices heard by publicly distinguishing between PRC and ROC Mandarin. Social movements are important to societal change. Citizen participation is a teaching moment for activists, the public, and authorities. You bring up various other situations that might warrant a language boycott, and similar arguments could be made for these as well. Those other possible boycotts don't invalidate the argument for a boycott of PRC Mandarin. Neither does your counterfactual of a monolingual mainland. A boycott of PRC Mandarin is one way that regular citizens can seek to use language to channel their relations, and the relations of future generations, to a politics that is participative rather than authoritarian.

  41. Philip Taylor said,

    November 20, 2018 @ 6:51 pm

    John Freeman — no, "persons of size" are those whom the airline require to book two seats; requiring extra leg room (at least in coach) is normal, as far as I can see … And thank you for your clarification of "persons of colour" — to the best of my knowledge, it would not be used in the UK for (for example) my wife, who is Chinese/Vietnamese; it is not a common expression over here, but if it were used, it would almost certainly refer to someone very dark skinned (Caribbean, African, etc) or to those with a slightly lighter skin, such as those from the Indian sub-continent. From discussions with (British) friends, I think that for us (Britons, that is) "persons of colour" is simply current PC for "coloured people".

  42. Alex said,

    November 20, 2018 @ 7:30 pm

    @Anders Corr

    First its not practical for someone to learn Hindi instead of Chinese as people in this region are pragmatic. They will choose languages which they feel are useful for themselves or more likely for their children. That is why English is learned here. People pay up to 80 USD an hour for one on one English tutoring the average is around 60 usd. They do this because they feel it helps their child's future. Likewise I'd imagine people in ASEAN choose Mandarin because they feel it would help their future. People around the world are already learning English so they assume they would be able to converse with Indians on a business level.

    I was very serious about beginning by teaching pinyin in replacement of characters.

    It serves two purposes. First it makes a statement "cultural appropriation" so they understand what they are doing to others.
    Personally I don't feel culturally very attached to learning writing. That said it is one of the top reasons provided by parents and educators that the handwriting of characters are part of the culture and rites of passage (more like Stockholm syndrome to me, I suffered and was brainwashed so my kids need to be too) so clearly it would elicit a response.
    I do appreciate Chinese calligraphy as an art and part of the culture.

    The second purpose though is that I truly believe that it would help make hundreds of millions of people more literate and with that they will be enlightened and who knows what that would lead to.

  43. Alex said,

    November 20, 2018 @ 8:03 pm

    @ anders Corr

    From wiki:

    "Before the creation of the new Korean alphabet, Koreans primarily wrote using Classical Chinese alongside native phonetic writing systems that predate the modern Korean alphabet by hundreds of years, including Idu script, Hyangchal, Gugyeol and Gakpil. However, due to fundamental differences between the Korean and Chinese languages, and the large number of characters, many lower class Koreans were illiterate.[18] To promote literacy among the common people, the fourth king of the Joseon dynasty, Sejong the Great, personally created and promulgated a new alphabet.

    The Korean alphabet was designed so that people with little education could learn to read and write. A popular saying about the alphabet is, "A wise man can acquaint himself with them before the morning is over; even a stupid man can learn them in the space of ten days"

    So to create real change instead of one off forms of protest, promoting literacy would help. The first step is to create tons of educational material using only pinyin. It would slowly but then quickly spread.
    This in turn would solve the literacy rate here. The official numbers that are provided are ridiculous as I often do sample man on the street testing with waiters, doormen, taxi drivers, parents in my community, even people i meet at dinners and events.

    Solving literacy here would be a step in the right direction. I wonder if then pure pinyin books would be banned.

  44. Victor Mair said,

    November 20, 2018 @ 9:23 pm

    Going back to the exchange between Alex and ajay, in which others joined:

    CSU Adds 'Long Time, No See,' 'You Guys,' 'Freshman' to Long List of Politically Incorrect Words

    By Emily Ward | November 13, 2018 | 4:56 PM EST

    https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/emily-ward/csu-adds-long-time-no-see-you-guys-freshman-long-list-politically-incorrect

    "CSU" is Colorado State University.

    =====

    "A countless amount of words and phrases have been marked with a big, red X and defined as non-inclusive," Katrina Leibee wrote, describing her frustration with the university's penchant for political correctness.. "It has gotten to the point where students should carry around a dictionary of words they cannot say."

    =====

    The article gives many examples of forbidden words and expressions.

  45. ajay said,

    November 21, 2018 @ 12:14 am

    CNS News certainly looks like a reliable source without an axe to grind. I'm sure that its account is not exaggerated or fabricated in any way.

  46. Alex said,

    November 21, 2018 @ 2:52 am

    @ajay

    Its amazing in this age of google that you could post your remark without even the most superficial of all research.

    The following took me less than10 minutes.

    https://collegian.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Inclusive-Language-Guide_10_30_18.pdf

    https://collegian.com/2018/11/leibee-csu-has-gone-too-far-with-inclusive-language/

    https://diversity.colostate.edu/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocky_Mountain_Collegian

    "The Rocky Mountain Collegian is the daily student newspaper of Colorado State University. Founded in 1891, the paper is one of the oldest daily student newspapers west of the Mississippi River and is the only student-run daily newspaper in the state of Colorado. In 2010, the Collegian was ranked one of the top three daily student newspapers in the nation by the Society of Professional Journalists. "

    perhaps that paper isnt reputable enough perhaps only the NYT might be ok for you!
    Yes that's sarcasm as I'm following your tone.

    Now if you take the time to look at the above links you will see that the university has a long history of seeing what words shouldn't be used.

    I think the author of the article was correct in saying its hard to keep up with what is ok to say and what is not ok to say as the they tell you the document is a living document.

    I am fairly certain as I have checked many universities now have such guidelines.

    The key point is that if the university puts out these "guidelines" do I feel pressured as a student to follow them and not use those words or phrases?

    I recall a Jordan Peterson case being an important test of this but being here in China with two young kids and an IT firm I cant keep up with whats going on in that case.

  47. RP said,

    November 21, 2018 @ 8:07 am

    The document at https://collegian.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Inclusive-Language-Guide_10_30_18.pdf specifically states that it represents neither official policy nor required practice.
    There are certainly some things one could quibble with. I am always wary of arguments about avoiding expressions such as "rule of thumb" on the grounds that someone has claimed they have an offensive origin. I have not looked into this one but these offensive origins often turn out to be at best speculative or uncertain, and at worst clearly fictional.
    I must say though, in a world where we have moved away from "fireman" and "chairman" (especially in their generic and plural uses) there is no argument for retaining the word "freshman". Those who don't like the boring term "first-year" could borrow our British term "fresher". We only really apply it for the first few weeks (it's more like "newbie" in a way) but you can use your own definition.

  48. Philip Anderson said,

    November 21, 2018 @ 8:40 am

    Fresher was the British term when I went to university, nearly 40 years ago, and freshman has always sounded dated, much more so than fireman (who would have been male at that time).

  49. Alex said,

    November 21, 2018 @ 9:51 am

    @RP

    Yes I saw that disclaimer. But as I explained if I went to work and saw something like here are guidelines that was produced by a department but it said
    "these are just guidelines to be helpful but are not official policy….."

    perhaps to follow the British i'll start using Jazz hands instead of clapping and yes I read the snopes article.

  50. Jared said,

    November 22, 2018 @ 7:21 am

    So in the article, Dr. Mair's post, and the subsequent discussion there is no mention of Singapore's adoption of simplified characters nor is there mention of the Singapore government's push to make mandarin a first class language at the expense of hokkien, teochew, etc?

    (I did a CTRL-F to make sure I didn't miss it)

    I believe Chinese Singaporeans pushed for a common Chinese dialect before the establishment of the PRC and had a standard for character simplification of their own. Obviously later they adopted PRC standards. How should the boycott apply here ?

  51. Alegarion said,

    November 22, 2018 @ 11:07 am

    I would like to add another aspect to this discussion. There is a difference between language, its speakers and the use of their speech. First of all, as Corr said, every outcast Chinese human rights activist should have his right to voice himself in PRC Mandarin, which means that rather than depending on the speaker or the language itself, the decision on boycotting PRC Mandarin should be based on its use. But how is it used? Even though I know that to some readers a comparison to China and Third Reich Germany might appear offensive, but let's go with it for a moment: As a native speaker of German and a citizen of the FRG I do not have the impression that the only use of German during Nazi times has been the organisation of human rights violations (even though it has been used in this way a lot too plentily) – At least the Goethe poems my grandfather (a social-democrat) knows by heart convinced me of the opposite. From the fact that language is or was used for something we can not conclude that the entirety of speakers uses it for that (or is aware of it happening). Also I do not belive that most Chinese citizens actively agree with human rights violation in general, just as most Germans were not asked on whether they liked concentration camps or not. The question should be: can boycotting the language as a whole stop the use of this language by a group of its speakers to do bad things?
    Would a boycott of the German language at British schools have been of any use to Czech or Polish citizens suffering from Nazi terror? I honestly do not think so. On a cultural level the Nazi state could even have profited from a relative linguistic isolation, as a lack of contact to other cultures facilitates indoctrination via propaganda. There would not have been economic hardships because of that either, as Germany has been quite economically independent.
    Of course this analogy cannot be fully applied to PRC Mandarin and China, as China plays a large role in international trade and part of its power is derived directly from that fact. But international trade with China would only partly be impaired, especially when taking into account that English will always remain an option available to most Chinese enterprises.
    All in all, the only thing we'd really impair by boycotting the PRC Mandarin is our understanding of the chinese culture and people and our options to communicate with and influence them. It seems that we should rather focus on more relevant aspects such as why we continue buying chinese products and thus fund the existence of the authoritarian communist state in China by paying customs and taxes.

  52. Jonathan Smith said,

    November 22, 2018 @ 2:42 pm

    "All in all, the only thing we'd really impair by boycotting the PRC Mandarin is our understanding of the chinese culture and people and our options to communicate with and influence them."
    点赞

  53. Bathrobe said,

    November 22, 2018 @ 7:24 pm

    It is better to have Chinese-language content on the Internet that is critical of the current regime (even if only subtly so) than it is to have none at all, despite the Chinese government's inevitable attempts to block it.

  54. David Marjanović said,

    November 23, 2018 @ 12:12 pm

    The article strikes me as quite muddle-headed. Factual mistakes aside (as pointed out by Bob Ladd above), it makes a passionate argument for a purely symbolic gesture. It ends in: "We need to take opposition to China's nationalism up a notch, and that includes boycotting its national language until it democratizes." – and that's not even going to work, as several people in this thread have pointed out.

    The people who rule the PRC are afraid of democracy. As long as they keep that fear, democracy is impossible.

    1. A Filipino in Manila who is not sure about whether to study Mandarin or Hindi might choose Hindi because of the boycott. If many Filipino youth did this, it would marginally decrease the power of the PRC in Manila, and increase the power of Delhi.

    How many people are in that situation or anything like it?

    2. A Taiwan democracy activist could confront a university administrator in the U.S. over their support for Confucius Institutes — saying there is a boycott against PRC Mandarin, and the CI teaches simplified characters. This could be a chance to education the administrator about the ethical issues of cooperating with the PRC on CIs.

    Or they could argue against support for Confucius Institutes directly, without having to thread their argument through language and script first.

    3. A Hong Kong democracy activist could strengthen her resolve to maintain Cantonese programs in schools or universities and resist new Mandarin language programs.

    Do you think they're lacking in resolve?

    But if the PRC did take such an overt action against English on the mainland, it might inspire a stronger response by democratic governments against the PRC.

    Many of Europe's populist right-wing parties would instead praise that and loudly think about copying it.

    ======================

    What's interesting here in the PRC is people say it ["fat"] to others all the time. Usually they are trying to be helpful. They say it for health reasons or that you are beginning to look in unattractive. I have had many of surprised western friends when people of all walks of life casually point out they should lose some weight.

    What's going on in the West with this issue is an interesting mixture of very old-fashioned politeness with the following three arguments:

    1) How many people, do you think, don't notice when they get fat? More likely, they're being reminded so often it's getting quite tiresome.
    2) Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. It really is. Telling someone they're unattractive is useless information for them, unless they were attracted to the person who tells them. It's a statement about one's personal taste, not about anybody else's.
    3) Sure, clinical obesity is dangerous. But apart from that, research is still ongoing. Some studies have found that being overweight protects against various health issues. There definitely isn't a single ideal BMI for the whole world, and there may not even be a single ideal BMI for a single person.

  55. ajay said,

    November 26, 2018 @ 6:06 am

    Its amazing in this age of google that you could post your remark without even the most superficial of all research.

    Son, it's not my job to do research to find reliable evidence to back up your assertions.

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