fifty years ago August 16, 1971 Archives

From the Archives (August 16, 1971): English is China’s second language

Hong Kong, August 15: The study of English in East Asia is likely to get a boost following the remark by the Chinese Premier, Mr. Chou En-lai to Mr. James Reston of the New York Times recently that English has become the second language in China. Until about three years ago, Russian was the favoured foreign language in mainland China. The confrontation with the Russians had the effect of cutting off contact with all things Russian — including the language. But Mr. Chou also told Mr. Reston that he did not approve of this linguistic discrimination. The study of English in mainland China was intensified even before the birth of “ping pong” diplomacy. The was quite a change from the anti-English purge during the Cultural Revolution four years ago when all vestiges of English — and things foreign — were removed, even to the extent of street signs.

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