A review of achievements in the development of Chinese language (2012-2021)


Language is an important cultural, economic and strategic resource and serves as an essential foundation for a country’s overall development. China has dedicated tremendous effort to promote the development of the Chinese language and has achieved the following results during the past decade:

1. Standard Chinese is now used more widely in the country. Today, 80.72% of China’s population uses Standard Chinese, while the figure was 70% 10 years ago. More than 95% of the literate population can correctly use standard Chinese characters, and the illiteracy rate has dropped to 2.67%. Various plans have been implemented to broaden the use of Standard Chinese in order to facilitate poverty alleviation and support rural development. Thirty-one national language standards have been revised, and standardized Chinese translations for thirteen groups of foreign terms have been published.

2. A great number of language projects have been launched to better preserve traditional Chinese culture. For example, a project was launched to study ancient Chinese language and explore its historical and cultural values. Activities have been held to encourage more people to read traditional Chinese literature. Several TV shows on Chinese poetry, Chinese language writing and Chinese idioms are very popular and have attracted a combined total of 4 billion visits online. Furthermore, a popular TV game show on CPC history for college students has received 1 billion visits. The Key Concepts in Chinese Thought and Culture Project has translated more than 1,000 Chinese cultural terms into English and has engaged in international copyright cooperation with 28 countries. The Chinese Language Resources Protection Project has conducted field studies at more than 1,700 sites and has built the world’s largest language resource database. Efforts have also been made to strengthen cooperation in language and culture with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Macao Special Administrative Region and Taiwan Province. The Putonghua Proficiency Test for Chinese natives has also been held on a regular basis.

3. Socioeconomic needs have been better served. The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Language Working Mechanism and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Language Research Institute have been established to serve the needs of the Belt and Road Initiative and other regional development strategies. A terminology base was created for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. The National Language Service Corps of China (NLSC) has been established to facilitate cross-language communication in urgent situations. The Global Chinese Learning Platform has attracted 6.1 million users from 182 countries/areas and has received a total of 100 million visits.

4. International cooperation and exchange has been enhanced. Efforts have been made to improve Chinese language teaching in foreign countries, including the release of the Chinese Proficiency Grading Standards for International Chinese Language Education and the establishment of Putonghua proficiency test centers outside China. China also hosted the International Conference on Language in partnership with UNESCO and formulated the Suzhou Conclusions. It also hosted the 1st World Language Resources Protection Conference and published the Yuelu Proclamation, the first UNESCO document of its kind dedicated to the protection of linguistic diversity. Cooperation and exchange in language has been enhanced with Russia, France, Germany and ASEAN. 

5. A modern governance mechanism has been developed to provide better guidance for the use of language, strengthen research capacity and foster more language professionals. A variety of activities were held to celebrate Putonghua Week on an annual basis. In addition, 42 publications on language have been released, including Report on the Development of China’s Language Work and The Language Situation in China. A research institute group led by the State Language Commission has been established, which comprises twenty-four research centers and think tanks. Furthermore, 122 centers have been built to enhance the capacity of Chinese language professionals.

As its next step, China will continue to promote the use of Chinese language and improve Chinese language teaching so as to better facilitate the country’s modernization process and socioeconomic development.