Constructing Chinese Language Competence for “the Belt and Road Initiatives” from the Cultural Perspective

London Journal of Research in Humanities and Social Sciences
Volume | Issue | Compilation
Authored by Honghui Tan , NA
Classification: FOR Code: 200311
Keywords: “the Belt and Road Initiatives”;chinese language competence;culture.
Language: English

From the perspective of cultural consciousness, cultural security and cultural self-confidence, we thoroughly examine problems existing in the construction of Chinese language ability compatible with the “Belt and Road Initiatives”. In order to improve Chinese language competence building, the internationalization of higher education in China should be promoted in the course of which Chinese language should be encouraged to be lingua franca. In addition, to realize their professional development, college teachers of foreign language teaching should take the initiative to undertake the education and teaching reform brought about by the new era of economic globalization.


Constructing Chinese Language Competence for

“the Belt and Road Initiatives” from the Cultural Perspective

Tan Honghui



From the perspective of cultural consciousness, cultural security and cultural self-confidence, we thoroughly examine problems existing in the construction of Chinese language ability compatible with the “Belt and Road Initiatives”. In order to improve Chinese language competence building, the internationalization of higher education in China should be promoted in the course of which Chinese language should be encouraged to be lingua franca. In addition, to realize their professional development, college teachers of foreign language teaching should take the initiative to undertake the education and teaching reform brought about by the new era of economic globalization.

Keywords: “the belt and road initiatives”; chinese language competence; culture.

Author: School of Foreign Studies, Yangtze University Jingzhou China.


Since China launched the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” (hereinafter referred to as the “Belt and Road”) in September 2013, the construction of Chinese language ability has begun to receive national widespread attention. To achieve the One Belt One initiative, language interoperability is the foundation, and cultural exchange and integration are the bonds. Language has instrumental value and cultural value. It plays an important and decisive role in cultural inheritance, cultural identity, cultural exchange, cultural rights, cultural ecology and cultural security. The prosperity and development of culture also promote language capacity building and language spread. Today, with the accelerated development of economic globalization, we consciously and rationally examine the problems existing in the construction of language ability from the perspective of cultural security, cultural self-confidence to build Chinese language ability that is compatible with the “Belt and Road Initiatives”.


Cultural security is a state in which a country and a nation can defend their cultural sovereignty, inherit the fine cultural traditions and make the culture sustainable. It is an important force in national security affairs. Language security is the foundation of cultural security, and cultural security also plays a role in language security.

In the context of globalization, each of us is surrounded by cultural exchanges. More and more scholars recognize that language and writing issues are related to cultural security and national security. The French linguist Charles Morris believes that "defending the French language is as important as strengthening national defense!" (Li Keqin, Zhu Qingyu 2009). Xu Jialu (2003) pointed out that "from ancient times, the problem of language and writing has always been related to the sovereignty of the state and the nation, and to the human rights of citizens." Liu Yuejin (2004) believes that "for a country and a nation, the connotation of cultural security is mainly reflected in such fields as language security, safety of customs, values ​​and lifestyles, etc." Among them, “language security is the most important" (Liu Yuejin, 2011).

Language security is interdependent of cultural security. In the field of language, culture, ideology, and values, every country advocates the protection of its status as a language and culture. Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (2001), when the international hegemonic culture of English as a carrier swept the momentum of the world, felt the danger of his own language and declared: "If the language of the country disappears, or being completely eroded after several generations, a large part of the national culture will disappear, and so does some national characteristics.” In order to spread its own ideology, values, cultural penetration of the “key language” area, the United States launched the National Security Language Program in 2006 to encourage citizens to learn the eight “key languages”, among which Chinese is ranked second. The purpose is to ensure the security and prosperity of the United States, improving economic competitiveness and achieving “new Empire " ideal, etc. (Wang Jianqin, 2010).

However, some languages ​​are in danger of dying. According to the Endangered Language Atlas published by UNESCO in 2009, more than half of the world's languages ​​will die in this century, and 80-90% will be extinct in the next 200 years. Colonialism has been the biggest destroyer in the past 200 years. European colonists have eliminated more than 150 indigenous languages ​​in Australia and over 300 indigenous languages ​​in North America.

With a high degree of consciousness of cultural security, the “One Belt, One Road” initiatives are put forwarded by China. it is necessary to establish a stronger cultural security awareness and build a language environment to improve language skills.


The Chinese language ability is not compatible with the requirements of the “Belt and Road” construction for the following problems.

  1. Limited ability to teach Chinese as a foreign language. In the “Belt and Road” construction, China needs talents who can speak native language of countries along the “Belt and Road” line in which talents who can speak Chinese are also greatly needed. However, the teachers who have the “Certificate of Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language” account for only one-fifth of the teachers who work in teaching Chinese as a foreign language, and the teacher-student ratio is 1:1000” (Sun Yixue, 2017). If only included in the statistics of the countries along the “Belt and Road”, this proportion will be even lower.
  2. Insufficient reserves of talents who can speak minor languages. There are 65 countries along the “Belt and Road”, in which, most languages ​​are non-universal languages with 53 official languages and more than 200 local languages.  The courses of  foreign languages ​​offered by higher education institutions in China are mainly English, Russian, Japanese, French, German, Spanish, and Arabic. Many other language courses are not offered or only recently offered by few colleges. As a consequence, the talents are insufficient.
  3. Scarce advanced talents who can speak foreign languages. There are fewer than 100 qualified Chinese-English translators in China (Huang Youyi, 2008). As Professor Stephen Owen, a contemporary Sinologist, once said: "China is spending money to translate Chinese books into English, but it can never work because translators should always translate foreign languages ​​into their native language and never translate their mother tongue into a foreign language" (Xin Hongjuan, 2017).  For if there is no developed international education background as a basis, Even in English, advanced foreign languages speaking talents will be rare.
  4. Lagging behind of compound talent training. Because of “One Belt and One Road” a large number of personnel and laborers in engineering and technology who can communicate in various of foreign languages are urgently needed. However, our educational institution is not well prepared for training these compound talents. For example, PetroChina requires all foreign language professionals to be familiar with a business and become a backbone within five years, otherwise they will be dismissed; for non-foreign language employees, they will take a foreign language test every six months, and those who are not qualified will have to retrain or Dismissal. Japan sets a good example for us in training comprehensive talent. For instance, although there are only two national foreign language universities in Japan and the comprehensive universities generally do not have specialized foreign language colleges, the diversity of the disciplines in Japanese comprehensive universities and the richness of foreign language courses guarantee the compound talents (Gong Xianjing, 2016). The situation of foreign language departments in universities in China may form an obstacle to the development of compound talents. The strengthening of "foreign language + a major" may also form a barrier to "a major + foreign language".

3.1 Cultural self-confidence helps build language skills that are compatible with the “Belt and Road”

Cultural self-confidence is the full affirmation and active practice of a nation, a country, and a political party for its cultural endowment and possession. Entering a new era of globalization, there are more and more people in different cultural backgrounds, and cultural conflicts and integration have become an important feature of the development of this era. To realize the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, we must have a firm cultural confidence. A firm cultural self-confidence can also help us strengthen our language skills in the “Belt and Road” and become a strong support for our language and culture. Some measures can be made as follows.

  1. Formulating China's national language development plan. Language development requires both market regulation and planning guidelines. It requires both the conscious action of schools and educational and training institutions at all levels, as well as the guidance and regulation of the education administration. According to the language development plan, the education administrative department guides the university to carry out the education and teaching of non-universal languages ​​along the “Belt and Road” in a rational, orderly and disparate manner, support the construction and development of disciplines and majors, and gradually realize the full coverage of non-universal language teaching.
  2. Formulating China's national “key language” policy. “Key language” generally refers to a key foreign language that has a significant impact on national security. The training of key language talents generally adopts the elite education model, highlighting “less” and “fine”, paying attention to the quality of talent training, and focusing on cultivating high-end language, culture and regional research talents. The Outline of the National Medium- and Long-Term Language and Literacy Reform and Development Plan (2012-2020) clearly states: "Developing a key language policy for responding to international emergencies and building a national resource pool for multilingual talents." The strategic goal is to significantly enhance the national language strength, significantly improve the national language ability, and build a harmonious social language life.
  3. Constructing China's national language service and personnel training emergency system. The United States can handle more than 500 languages, but only a small part of it is cultivated through institutions, and the majority of the channels include emergency system training and reserves (Yang Yiming, 2015). Chinese universities cannot and should not be regarded as being able to solve all language problems. The state should establish a list of language emergency management objectives, targeting the official language and part of the national language of the “Belt and Road” that has not yet held professional education, or although it is professional. In the short to medium term, the language of the “five links” cannot be met, and special channels are adopted to incorporate the emergency system to train talents.

3.2 Striving to make Chinese lingua franca among countries which take part in the project of "the belt and road initiatives”

To communicate well with each other, on the one hand, foreign languages should be taught in China. On the other hand, it is necessary trying to make Chinese one of lingua franca as well as English because of the fact that different languages are spoken in countries along the line of “one belt and road”.  

According to statistics, a large number of local employees in the countries along the “Belt and Road” have entered Chinese-funded enterprises and become the biggest driving force for Chinese language learning. For example, Central Asian countries have strict regulations on employment policies for foreign companies. The ratio of local to foreign employees cannot be lower than 8:2. Tajikistan has begun trials of 9:1. Local employees who can speak Chinese well have more employment opportunities, which is favorable for spread of Chinese language learning.

Besides, the rapid development of Confucius Institutes and international student education has laid a good foundation for Chinese communication. The "Chinese Language and Literature Business Development Report (2017)" white paper shows that only 84 Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms in primary and secondary schools were built in 2016 alone and up to now, China has established 511 Confucius Institutes and 1,073 Confucius Classrooms in 140 countries and regions in which there are 2.1 million registered students. Among them, there are 134 Confucius Institutes and 130 Confucius Classrooms in 13 schools and regions in countries along the “Belt and Road”line (Zhao Xiaoxia, 2017), and 460,000 people have studied Chinese through the Confucius Institute and Confucius Classroom. By the end of 2016, more than 200,000 students have been studying in China along the “Belt and Road”. Meanwhile, since 2012, more than 350,000 people in China have gone to study abroad in the “Belt and Road” countries.

At present, there are more than 50 million Chinese-learning students in the world. More than 2,500 universities in more than 100 countries have Chinese courses, and more and more primary and secondary schools have begun to offer Chinese courses (Sun Yixue, 2017). In 67 countries and regions, Chinese language teaching has been incorporated into the national education system through the promulgation of decrees (Zhao Xiaoxia, 2017), all of which is helpful to spread the Chinese learning.

3.3 Promoting the internationalization of China's higher education

The “Belt and Road Initiatives” provides opportunities and mission for Chinese international education. Since the 18th National Congress, the number of students studying in China has continued to grow. In 2016, the number of international students exceeded 440,000. China has become the largest destination for study abroad in Asia. The Belt and Road Initiative countries have huge demand for study abroad in China. Seven of the top 10 countries for foreign students coming to China in 2016 are those from countries along the “Belt and Road”.

The development of education provides a basic guarantee for the internationalization path. After more than 40 years of reform and opening up, the quality of China's higher education has been increasingly recognized by the international community. For example, higher engineering education has officially joined the "Washington Accord", which recognizes the mutual recognition of international engineers in 2016, and basically covers the construction of the "Belt and Road". The major engineering projects have a good foundation for receiving a large number of international students and “going out” to establish overseas universities and education bases in countries along the “Belt and Road”.

Implementing the internationalization strategy of higher education may contribute to improving constructing Chinese language competence. In the internationalization of higher education and the construction of the “Belt and Road”, college language teaching teachers, especially foreign language teachers, should assume historical responsibility and take the initiative to undertake the education and teaching reform brought about by the new era of economic globalization and realize professional new development. Firstly, teachers should adapt themselves to the upcoming supply-side reform (enrollment compression of English majors, increase of minor languages, foreign language school setting adjustment, etc.). Secondly, teachers should prepare for the internationalization of higher education, adapting to the development of foreign students' education, and combining the school-running characteristics of their respective schools to be competent in the education of a certain subject, major, curriculum and student education management. Thirdly, teachers should prepare for the “going out” of higher education, applying for the “Certificate of Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language”, serving the education and teaching of the Confucius Institute, and serving the expansion of overseas universities. Fourthly, teachers should adapt to the changes brought by the transformation of "foreign language + professional domain studies" to "professional domain studies+ foreign language", trying to become an expert in a professional technical field. Fifthly, teachers should adapt to the changes brought about by the development of the Internet and artificial intelligence, becoming a master in the field of intelligent translation. Sixthly, teachers should be active to cooperate with all kinds of social institutions and enterprises which offer language services, exercising their practical work ability, enriching practical work experience helpful for the “Belt and Road” language service.


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