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American Students’ Love Affair With China Cools as Political Tensions Rise

May 23, 2021

A fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal from January, for those who have subscriptions. Here’s the link.

For those that don’t, some highlights:

As the relationship between the U.S. and China has grown more tense, the number of U.S. students studying there had declined by one-fifth since a peak in 2011-2012. The number studying in Taiwan has increased 55%.

A professor at the University of Michigan said many of her students have gone from seeing China as a land of opportunity 10 to 15 years ago to a potential enemy or competitor today.

The number of U.S. students studying Chinese in college declined 9% from 2013 to 2016, according to the Modern Language Association. The survey is done every 5 years, so a new one will come out this year. It will be interesting to see where the numbers are now.

That said, the people quoted in the story all said it’s important to continue to engage on a person-to-person level no matter what goes on at the national level.

Thinking about how this all applies to Mandarin immersion, here are some of my thoughts:

  • Whatever’s happening today, life will be very different 16 years from now the current class of Mandarin immersion Kindergarteners graduates from college.
  • Where will U.S.-China relations be in 2037? We have no way of knowing but they will not be what they are now.
  • Chinese will still be the most spoken language on the planet.
  • The United States and China will be two of the most economically important countries in the world.
  • No matter what’s happened in those 16 years, we’ll need to be able to talk to one and other.

So I wouldn’t make my decisions about what language to focus on based on what’s happening this year, but what’s happened over the last 30 — and what you think the next 30 might look like.

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