China’s Ministry of Education and its National Language Committee have issued an announcement (in Chinese) calling for intensive work to spread the use of spoken Mandarin and standardized Chinese characters. Currently, about 70 percent of the population can speak Mandarin. In big cities, the figure is around 90 percent, but according to the announcement in some rural areas and among ethnic groups, the number is 40 percent or even lower. The BBC has a short report on the announcement that says the target is to have 80 percent of the population speaking Mandarin by 2020, but the original announcement does not actually mention that number.
The Ministry of Education says that ensuring that the use of Mandarin is thoroughly popularized is an important goal of the 13th five-year plan, and necessary to meet China’s development goals and to preserve social harmony and unity of the nation. The announcement also calls for the “scientific preservation” (科学保护 kēxué bǎohù) of the languages of ethnic minorities.
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