The British are used to expecting everyone to speak English when going abroad, even to the degree of anglicising foreign names.”Beijing” in Chinese turns into “Peking” in English.
Nowadays the Chinese are doing the same. About 150,000 tourists from China who travel to Britain every year are “sinicizing” English place names. Chinese tourists enjoy the views of London from the top of “A Tower Where You Can Pick Stars From The Sky” (known as the Shard). If they leave London to travel the South coast, then “George and John’s Indian Palace” (Brighton Pavilion) is a big highlight, and they can take a trip around the “Mountain Lakes Get You Drunk In Dreams” (obviously this stands for Loch Lomond).
No doubt the Chinese can’ get enough of England, especially when it comes to shopping. Chinese tourists will spend £1 billion a year in the UK in years to come.
We can embrace the Chinese, or ignore them, but completely ignoring a country with the world’s biggest population won’t make it disappear. Politically, China is returning to the historical position as the world’s most powerful country, while the US is slowly going downhill.
I have become a convinced China lover. I ignored this country for the first 50 years of my life and it ignored me. But then I visited China for the first time in 2005, and returned to declare I was going to prepare and pass the Mandarin GCSE. It turned out to be a very challenging idea. I simply couldn’t remember every tone of Chinese characters no matter how hard I tried.
I finally realized that Chinese would be much easier if learned from childhood. Now I can speak some bad Chinese, but I encourage my students at school to learn Chinese. Frankly most of them enjoy it and are quite good at it.
China longs for British culture and education. Several British schools have established overseas branches, including Harrow and Dulwich. Britain can establish a particularly strong connection with China, if it acts quickly. The British Government believes that services and creative industries can make the UK the best partner for China in the coming decades.
It is nonsense to fear China, let alone in disliking it. If British can overcome their traditional complacency, if more students start to learn the language, and if business and cultural organizations seize the opportunities of cooperation to be set up in China, then we can also share in the “Chinese dream”.