According to a directive recently released by China’s Ministry of Education, Mandarin Chinese will be spoken by 85% of the country’s population by 2025.
The order issued by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, said use of Mandarin, known in Chinese as putonghua or the “common tongue,” remains “unbalanced and inadequate” and needs to be improved to meet the demands of the modern economy, and stressed that schools must play a key role in the teaching of standardized Chinese.
The directive also called for wider access to standardized Chinese education in ethnic minority areas which looks likely to increase the suppression of regional languages and dialects including Cantonese, Hokkien, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Uyghur. However, it does call for the protection of the spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities as well as the improvement of their quality of education without going into specifics.
More control will be introduced over the use of new words and expressions, acronyms, and foreign language words, while the use of language on new media will be standardized, according to the order, which also stressed the importance of promoting Chinese language education and services internationally, while boosting the language’s influence in academia. The recent closures of Confucius centers worldwide have stifled the government’s ambitions for the language.
Post 2025, the aim is to make Mandarin virtually universal domestically by 2035, including in rural areas and among ethnic minorities, where there have been protests against changes to the educational systems and employment requirements that have diminished the role of minority languages.
The policy has legal backing that will increase supervision to “ensure that the national common spoken and written language is used as the official language of government agencies and used as the basic language of schools, news and publications, radio, film and television, public services, and other fields.”