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The exportation of Chinese culture through language

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

04-01-2017 10:36 BJT

By Brant Johnston

As I write this, I am sitting in an English Teaching School in a small town in Russian Siberia called Abakan. While I write, there is a Mandarin class happening just to the right of me. This sentence alone is evidence to how globalized the world is becoming; I am an Australian, in Russia at a Chinese class.

However this is not the first time I have seen Chinese in an unusual place. Almost everywhere someone goes now, they can find Chinese characters on signs or subtitles, just below the English equivalent. The spread of Chinese language is not only helpful for tourism, but helps the spread of Chinese culture. 

The importance of learning Chinese is growing and more countries are beginning to recognize this. China is the second largest economy in the world and the largest export economy. It is the largest trading partner of numerous countries and its power and international influence is still growing.

New initiatives such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt & Road Initiative are only increasing China's position in the world. Russia recently announced that Mandarin will now be an elective for their college placement exam and Australia is offering more and more scholarships for students to study Chinese through their New Colombo Plan.

This is not to mention the '1 Million Strong' initiative announced by former President Obama and President Xi Jinping, where America hopes to have one million domestic students enrolled in Chinese classes. The benefits of this have not yet been fully seen but are not just for foreigners.

With a greater understanding of Chinese language and culture across the globe, Chinese businesses are able to more easily work abroad, opening new markets and opportunities. However the benefits are not just restricted to economics; As China's power rises, so too does some fear and discontent from neighbours that China may not be a peaceful or responsible stakeholder on the international stage.

However through the spread of Chinese culture and language, foreign countries can more greatly understand China and its intentions. By subduing such fears and misunderstandings, China is able to continue growing, uninhibited and peaceful.    

When people begin studying Chinese, they also must study part of the culture. When I began studying Chinese at university in Australia, a simple vocabulary lesson about family taught me about the importance of family in China and the hierarchical system implanted through respecting and caring for one's elders.

I also learned about the aging population in China, the lack of an adequate pension and the importance for one's children to take care of their parents and grandparents, something quite different to Australia. The further someone studies Chinese, the further they must study Chinese culture in order to fully understand the language and how to communicate with a Chinese person.

In Beijing, my class was given a multiple choice listening test. In one of the questions, I believed there were two answers. The teacher and I debated at great length about this. The teacher believed there was only one answer, but all the students from western countries saw two answers.

The details of the script are not important now, but what is important is that we realized there is a difference in understanding between our two cultures; a difference in how a situation or environment can be perceived. To really communicate clearly with a Chinese person, one must understand how they see the world. The importance of this understanding can never be overestimated.

Brant Johnston,  master student of International Security Scholar at Macquarie Univerisity, Australia

(The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com)

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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