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China's English

A History of English in Chinese Education

Bob Adamson

Publication Year: 2004

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.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Series: Asian Englishes Today


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p. v

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Series editor's preface

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pp. vii-viii

The English language has a long and fascinating history in China. The first English speakers arrived in southern China in the early seventeenth century, and by the late eighteenth century varieties of pidgin English were being spoken in Guangzhou (Canton) and Macau. From the outset, the reception of the English language was influenced by a range of cultural and political concerns which reflected the anxieties of Qing dynasty China...

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p. ix

My thanks are due to many people who helped me in the course of writing this book, and I would especially like to acknowledge the assistance given to me by Liu Daoyi, Tang Jun, Liu Jinfang, Ying Manrong, Wei Guodong and staff at the People's Education Press in Beijing, who were exceptionally generous with their time and facilitated this study in many ways, including allowing me to incorporate extracts from their English language textbooks. ...

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Note on transliteration

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p. xi

The official system of romanization for Chinese characters in the People's Republic of China is hanyu pinyin, which produces transliterations such as Beijing for the capital city, Yan'an for the communist base established at the end of the Long March and Mao Zedong for the name of the nation's leader after the revolution of 1949. This system was not uniformly adopted in English language textbooks...

Map of China

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p. xii

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1. Introduction

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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. ...

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2. Barbarian as a foreign language

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pp. 21-33

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. ...

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3. The Soviet influence, 1949-60

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pp. 35-77

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...

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4. Towards quality in education, 1961-66

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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 s 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...

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5. The Cultural Revolution, 1966-76

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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...

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6. Modernization under Deng Xiaoping,1977-93

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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...

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7. Integrating with globalization, 1993 onwards

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pp. 169-193

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...

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8. China's English

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pp. 195-209

The official English Language curriculum for junior secondary schools in China is a product of navigation, mainly by the PEP, through political, socio-economic 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. ...


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pp. 211-214


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pp. 215-217


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pp. 219-225


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pp. 227-241

E-ISBN-13: 9789882200647
Print-ISBN-13: 9789622096639

Page Count: 254
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Asian Englishes Today
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 650603496
MUSE Marc Record: Download for China's English

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Education -- China -- History.
  • English language -- Study and teaching (Secondary) -- China.
  • Education, Secondary -- Curricula -- China.
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