Learning Mandarin in China becomes more popular as times passes. I think that there are two main reasons behind this development that are interlinked. The first of the reasons is that there has been an obvious and hefty increase in the benefits that come with Mandarin proficiency. China is a growing super power that will come to rival the powers that be today. Business and politics is starting to adjust to this more multi-polar world and this has created more instances where the West is in contact with The Middle Kingdom China. This has of course resulted in many more well paid jobs where bilingual persons are justly rewarded for the difficult task of learning to speak Mandarin. The second reason that more people are interested in Mandarin language studies today than ever before is harder to pinpoint in terms of statistics and numbers, but nevertheless it is clear that the shift in demand for Mandarin courses has something to do with a parallel shift in popular awareness and culture regarding China. Never before has China been a household name in The West. I will now quickly outline what has actually happened in China over the last twenty years in terms of economic development and how this has raised Chinas profile worldwide.
Since Mao’s passing a large-scale reform started in China that has affected almost every facet of Chinese society. These reforms were both economic and political and although they were far reaching even in the early days of these comprehensive policy changes the results where slow. But then again, compared to the changes that started in the 1990’s so is everything. In 1990 China’s first ever stock exchange opened in Shanghai. Later on this step towards more liberal markets was joined by a successful Chinese application for entry into the World Trade Organization and a freer rules regarding the transfer of foreign capital into and out of China. All this paved the way for what is today considered the most comprehensive period of economic development in history. Annualized growth rates of around 10 percent has lifted 1 billion people out of poverty (1 sixth of mankind) in record time and seen Chinas economy grow by almost 300 percent in twenty year. Today China is mostly a so-called export led emerging market, meaning that the continued growth in domestic production is mostly gobbled up my foreign countries. This is however something that will not continue much longer. The next 5 years plan (the policy vehicle used my the Chinese central government to make large structural changes to the economy) is set to put a greater emphasis on domestic consumption in China. This change has been coming for a while without needing to be pushed on in some markets. Especially that of luxury consumption goods in which China has completely changed the playing field. China is on a per person basis supposed to have around 20 percent of this market. By 2025 China will account for about thirty percent, up from 1 percent only ten years ago.
This truly astounding pace of economic diversification and general improvement has paved way for the shift in popular culture. There as many examples of this but because of my rapidly diminishing word limit I will just give you the one that captures the essence of the shift. In 2010 the movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was released. This movie feature the first ever instance where China was treated as an equal, and perhaps as a factor of dominance, in an American blockbuster. The good-looking Wall Street top dog appeals to a Chinese business man to sponsor his project by speaking Mandarin and in line with flawless Chinese customs offers a bottle of Chinese Baijiu (extremely nice and expensive liquor). He closes the deal but remains dependent on the Chinese executive for continued business.
The awareness created by Hollywood and other sources of popular culture here and in a myriad of other examples cannot be discounted as a factor when discussing this matter, but regardless of the factors that underlie the massive increase in the number of people that come to China to study Mandarin, the increase is clear and the trend is here to stay.
About the Author
Rui Ming works for a Mandarin Language School in China that is a great option for those that want to start learning mandarin in China, the lingua franca of the growing economic powerhouse. See the program overview page for more information about learning Mandarin in China.