More Americans should be encouraged to learn Chinese

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By Yu Ning Source: Global Times

Almost 1.4 billion people around the world speak Chinese while more and more want to learn it. Photo: VCG

 US President Donald Trump ratcheted up his war of words with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in recent days. Shortly after Trump claimed if Biden were president China would “own” the US on Friday night, he doubled down his claims Tuesday, telling conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt if he lost the race to Biden, Americans would have to “learn to speak Chinese.” Slamming Trump’s remarks, the Biden campaign called Trump “the weakest president in American history with respect to China.”

The latest punch Trump landed on Biden was too weak. When he said Americans would have to learn to speak Chinese under a Biden presidency, he might have forgotten that his granddaughter, Arabella Kushner, the eldest daughter of Ivanka Trump, has been learning Putonghua since she was a toddler, and that he was proud of her language skills. “What’s wrong with learning Chinese?” US netizens ridiculed Trump on social media platforms, with some claiming it’s awesome to learn a second language.

Trump was implying learning Chinese is a terrible thing. For the Trump administration, everything related to China could be called  a “threat.” Chinese companies, technologies, and trade relations with China have all been regarded toxic by the US. But how can learning Putonghua be bad for the US?

Young generation of Chinese start learning English since kindergarten. Nobody worry it will be bad for China. While an estimated 300 to 400 million Chinese students are studying English, only about 200,000 US students are currently studying some form of Chinese. In fact, more Americans should be encouraged to learn Chinese.

Learning a country’s language helps understand the country better. To truly understand a culture, one has to learn its language. If more Americans learn Chinese, they will be able to have a better understanding of China instead of being fooled by the twisted and negative narrative about China by some American politicians and media that harbor ideological bias against China.

Learning to speak Chinese is not a bad thing at all. Should more Americans speak Chinese, they will understand China’s development philosophy, foreign policy. To say the least, Americans could have better prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic since they can learn first-hand epidemic preventive and control measures from Chinese media outlets rather than being misguided by US politicians and wasting time.

What the Americans need to worry about is not whether they have to learn to speak Chinese, but that the US doesn’t have enough Americans who really understand China. China-US relations that grew from decades of engagement have been kidnapped by some US politicians’ hostility to the rising China, and an attempt to decouple the two countries. Let more Americans learn Chinese, then they will be able to tell right from wrong, and grasp the real picture of China that is completely different from the demonization in the election campaign.

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