Mandarin Language Studies – Today and Tomorrow

20 May

China is changing, big time. So is the language that grants people access.

The nature of Mandarin language studies is changing along with China. Twenty years ago very few western people were aware of The Middle Kingdom. Everyone knew it was there, everyone knew they had a really long wall and everyone knew the basics about their modern history; there was a communist – nationalist civil war earlier on in the century, a guy called Mao led the communists to victory and something happened on a square in Beijing. That would basically summarize the vast majority of western people’s insights into the world’s largest country twenty years ago.

But since then Chinese modern history has changed and it has changed in such a way that people have taken notice. Following the great helmsman demise a great deal of reform swept over China and resulted in one of the greatest economic periods of development in the history of humanity. These reforms started in a small way buy gained momentum over time, as their success was evident. By 1990 there was a clear force of controlled market liberalization going on in China’s leadership structure and the decade saw the beginning of what we today think of as the Chinese growth miracle.

China got its first stock exchange in 1990. Later on in the decade they were successful in their application to join The World Trade Organization (WTO) and these two changes, combined with massive internal policy shifts, and the fact that people could now trade capital across China’s borders, meant one thing: the time for China to join globalization had come.

The infusion of western capital, know how and technology, mixed with the Chinese limitless supply of farmers that would rather not be farmers, led the way for a rocket like growth trajectory for the coming twenty years. Since then China’s economy has grown at an average above 10 percent a year (meaning that it doubles in size every 7.6 years) and has thus broken every previous record set by mankind for poverty reduction, capital intensification and just about every other measure for economic growth there is.

To add to this rather fetching development of Chinas image one more important thing has recently happened. I believe that this facet of our time will be one of the most discussed when people study our history in the future. The economic crisis that we, the west, are now going through has fundamentally altered the playing fields. The next decade will see the final demise of Europe as the power it once was. The small continent, home to around one eighteenth of all people, has dominated the world for most of the last three to four hundred years, and for the last 50 or so The United States have replaced it as the top dog and protector. But no more. There is an eastern and southern wind coming.

The BRIC economies; Brazil, Russia, India and China will take on more and more limelight during the next 10 years. Among these emerging markets there is clearly one king. China accounts for over 25 percent of total growth in 2010. That fact alone is sufficiently salient to be one of the key points when the history books are written about how China rose to power.

It makes very basic sense; capitalism dictates that the people who are willing to produce something cheaper should do so; microeconomics tells us that as soon as people make some money they are less willing to work for less, and wages will rise and eventually equalize. That time is, of course, far off today, but with 4 times as many Chinese as there are Americans we don’t have to wait for that future for our present to be fundamentally altered. When Chinese wages are half of American wages the Chinese economy will be twice that of The United States.

This will change the way that people think of China forever and it is for this reason that the nature of China’s lingua franca, Mandarin, will also change.

Rui Ming works for a Mandarin Language that is a great option for those that want to study Mandarin in China.

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