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Minority Education in ChinaBalancing Unity and Diversity in an Era of Critical Pluralism$
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James Leibold and Yangbin Chen

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9789888208135

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888208135.001.0001

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The Power of Chinese Linguistic Imperialism and Its Challenge to Multicultural Education

The Power of Chinese Linguistic Imperialism and Its Challenge to Multicultural Education

(p.45) 2 The Power of Chinese Linguistic Imperialism and Its Challenge to Multicultural Education
Minority Education in China

He Baogang

Hong Kong University Press

In his chapter He Baogang identifies a distinct linguistic trajectory over the longue durée of Chinese history: what he terms a type of “Chinese linguistic imperialism,” which makes multilingual education an unstable, and possibly untenable, proposition in contemporary China. The spread of Han characters (hanzi), he argues, has closely followed the expansion of Han culture and political rule—a sort of “soft power” that has resulted in the gradual, yet inextricable decline of alternative, minority languages. He suggests that this history of linguistic imperialism, as signified by the traditional concept of “Great Unity” (datong) and the administrative tradition of gaitu guiliu (replacing native chieftains with Han administrators), serves as a powerful counterbalance to Fei Xiaotong’s pluralistic unity paradigm, and ultimately presents a serious barrier to any bona fide and practical multicultural education in China. While He Baogang stakes out a normative claim for multilingualism, language is but one element of cultural diversity, and one can point to numerous examples of ethnicity that is not based on language.

Keywords:   Linguistic imperialism, Multicultural education, Han characters (hanzi), Multilingualism, Ethnicity, China, Chinese minorities, Minority education

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