Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
China's English

China's English: A History of English in Chinese Education

Bob Adamson
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 254
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    China's English
    Book Description:

    This book traces the history of English education in the People's Republic of China from 1949 to the present day. It uses the junior secondary school curriculum as the means to examine how English curriculum developers and textbook writers have confronted the shifting ambiguities and dilemmas over five distinct historical periods. The study of the processes of curriculum development and the products such as syllabi and textbooks offers insights into the construction of an 'official' English, as well as what was considered as acceptable content in English. This book addresses fundamental and significant questions concerning the English promoted in China, namely its characteristics; its changes over time and explanations for such changes; and the kind of content that has been viewed as appropriate for textbooks. To investigate these issues, the analysis draws on qualitative and quantitative data, such as interviews with principal stakeholders and analysis of the syllabus and recommended textbooks. Specifically, it looks at the choice and organization of linguistic components, and the orientation and messages of the curriculum.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-064-7
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series editor’s preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Kingsley Bolton
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Note on transliteration
    (pp. xi-xi)
  6. Map of China
    (pp. xii-xii)
  7. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    In 1983, I took up a teaching post in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Soon after my arrival, I was being shown around the city by one of my students, Mr Liu, and we chatted about his school days. They had been disrupted by the Cultural Revolution, a period of massive social and political upheaval, and at that time, Mr Liu told me, he had joined the local Red Guards, the juvenile revolutionaries, and participated in various activities. He took me to see his former secondary school, where he indicated a third-storey window in the...

  8. 2 Barbarian as a foreign language
    (pp. 21-34)

    The controversy surrounding English and the teaching of the language in China dates back to the late Qing dynasty, when the British, American and other trading empires sought access to Chinese markets and Christian missionaries access to Chinese souls. China’s strategy to mitigate undesirable cultural transfer through selective assimilation has been in place since the mid-nineteenth century. It is akin to a sluice gate. At times, the gate has only allowed very limited contact with English, at others the inflow has been freer. In the former cases, English has not been ascribed a significant role in state policy; in the...

  9. 3 The Soviet influence, 1949–60
    (pp. 35-78)

    The establishment of the PRC on 1 October 1949 marked the end of more than twelve years’ fighting, firstly arising from the Japanese invasion in 1937, and then the civil war between the CCP and Nationalist Party. Internal strife and weakness were major challenges to the CCP, whose main priority in the 1950s was nation-building. State policy addressed two major historical tensions (Hsū, 1990). The first arose from the immediate past: the need to consolidate the CCP’s power in the face of the lingering influences of the Nationalist Party and traditional feudal ideas, by using mass campaigns to unite the...

  10. 4 Towards quality in education, 1961–66
    (pp. 79-106)

    The early 1960s in China was a period of ‘leadership dissension and economic recovery’ (Wang 1995: 24). Political radicals, including Mao Zedong, were under pressure from other CCP leaders, such as Liu Shaoqi, Peng Dehuai, Lu Tingyi and Deng Xiaoping, after the failure of the political movements. On top of this was the acrimonious Sino-Soviet schism. The denunciation of Stalin by the Soviet leader, Khrushchev, and consequent re-orientation of policies were repudiated by the Chinese government and this led to Soviet experts being withdrawn from China at short notice, leaving many projects incomplete. Consequently, the status of English was boosted...

  11. 5 The Cultural Revolution, 1966–76
    (pp. 107-128)

    The heyday of English in China’s schools was brief. The two political lines (i.e., ideology-oriented and economics-oriented) which could be discerned in the CCP as early as the mid-1950s came into sharp conflict once more in the mid-1960s, as Mao Zedong felt his political power base under threat from economic reformers. Mao responded to the reforms of the early 1960s by launching the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, as the movement was euphemistically called, through an editorial published by the Liberation Army Daily on 18 April 1966 (Hsü, 1990). The agenda for the Cultural Revolution adopted at the Eleventh Plenum of...

  12. 6 Modernization under Deng Xiaoping, 1977–93
    (pp. 129-168)

    The demise of the Cultural Revolution marked the end of a period of relative isolation, both political and economic, for China. Mao’s designated successor was Hua Guofeng, who was viewed as a conciliatory figure, capable of bringing together the factions that had polarized in the latter years of the Cultural Revolution (Short, 1982). He reactivated a number of economic policies, most notably the Four Modernizations Programme, first elucidated by Lin Biao in 1959, which targeted agriculture, science and technology, defence and industry. In the event, Hua’s tenure of power proved to be just a brief interregnum and in 1978 Deng...

  13. 7 Integrating with globalization, 1993 onwards
    (pp. 169-194)

    Despite the political uncertainties of the late 1980s, economic reforms such as the Open Door Policy continued unabated, which ensured that the trends towards pedagogical developments in the English Language curriculum that stressed communicative competence remained in place. The new curriculum that appeared in 1993 was marked by major innovations that took seven years to materialize for various logistical reasons, so the genesis lay in events that pre-dated the Tiananmen Square incident and the curriculum development was hindered but not stopped by the political turmoil.

    The Open Door Policy increased people’s dealings with English speakers and was a further significant...

  14. 8 China’s English
    (pp. 195-210)

    The official English Language curriculum for junior secondary schools in China is a product of navigation, mainly by the PEP, through political, socioeconomic and educational currents. Over time, the English Language curriculum has reflected the vagaries of the socio-political climate in China. The curriculum has served as a mechanism for the state to appropriate English to serve its different aspirations, be they revolutionary or economic in orientation. The (often sudden) shifts in state priorities have required curriculum developers to be nimble-footed in ensuring the political correctness of the resources, but within the constraints, they have maintained the principle of selective...

  15. Appendix
    (pp. 211-214)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 215-218)
  17. References
    (pp. 219-226)
  18. Index
    (pp. 227-242)