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212 China Review International: Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1995 Both these books point time and again to the failures of the central government as the major obstacle to China's modernization in the nineteenth century. As David Pong so neatly shows us, even men of the caliber and influence of Li Hongzhang and Shen Baozhen had to be careful to keep their cooperation within narrow limits lest they arouse Beijing's suspicions that they were involved in factionalism: "All they could hope for was a stronger central or imperial leadership (Li Hung-chang, p. 100)." Our authors thus revive a view that has been rejected by scholars such as Thomas G. Rawski, who contends that it exaggerates the power of Chinese governments. And they also leave unanswered many questions raised or implied by a mass of recent scholarship that shows a burgeoning dynamism in late Qing society, a virtual embryonic process ofmodernization being launched from below even as Li and Shen were hoping for a Beijing leadership that never came. One yearns to know more about where Li and Shen stood in relation to these new social forces. These two books tell us much about Li and Shen, but it is less clear how much they tell us about China's modernization. Michael Gasster Rutgers University Heidi A. Ross. China Learns English: Language Teaching and Social Change in the People's Republic. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993. x, 280 pp. Hardcover $35.00. Winston Churchill once said, "China is a mystery wrapped in an enigma inside a mystery." What Churchill perhaps did not know is that China is also something of an enigma to the Chinese! Heidi Ross' work has endeavored to probe the mystery and unravel some of the intricacies surrounding the teaching of English as a foreign-language (EFL) in China. Success in teaching English in China is, to put it diplomatically, uneven. China was an insular country for centuries, and attempts to change this have also been uneven. Given the scope and urgency ofthe need to learn English in China, this book is a serious effort at an important subject. An impressive feature ofRoss' book is its comprehensive look at the history . of teaching English in China, which is detailed in a discussion of foreign-language ofHawai'iPressteaching in general (but English in particular) in the first three chapters. The author bases her discussion on a large body of literature pertaining to this history. What strikes one at first reading is how foreign-language teaching in China was Reviews 213 initiated. Two factors, external and internal, respectively, that started English-language teaching were (1) the coming of English-speaking missionaries, in the nineteenth century who regarded the teaching ofEnglish as an easyway to gain access to Chinese communities and the best way "through which to bring the hearts and minds of the Chinese people to God" (p. 18), and (2) the attempt by some Chinese to catch up with worldwide advances in science and technology. Because of these factors, the approach to English teaching in China has fluctuated widely since its inception. That it has also depended on China's political situation is particularly evident from the tortuous routes that the teaching of English has taken in the mid-twentieth century. The teaching of English effectively helped the Chinese people to understand Western industrial civilization, and in this way, it spurred the Eastern giant to break away from its long isolation from international communities. Given this fact, the teaching ofEnglish has had its stamp indelibly printed on the history of China's social and economic development. Chapter 3 discusses a significant turning point in China's foreign-language education. Historically, secondary schools provided the base for foreign-language teaching in China. Because of China's political and economic interests, English was not the first choice offoreign languages until the early 1960s; it was regarded as the tool of Communism's ideological opponents. The learning of English was perceived as a threat to internal political stability and cultural integrity. This situation remained unchanged until hostilities began to mount between China and the Soviet Union. On the whole, foreign-language teaching began to attract attention in 1962...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 212-216
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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