The English language has a long and fascinating history in China. The first English speakers arrived in southern China in the early seventeenth century, and by the late eighteenth century varieties of pidgin English were being spoken in Guangzhou (Canton) and Macau. From the outset, the reception of the English language was influenced by a range of cultural and political concerns which reflected the anxieties of Qing dynasty China to the 'strangers at the gate', whose mercantile and imperialist ambitions were perceived as a major threat to the Qing government and imperial Chinese society. Before the two Opium Wars (1839–42, 1856–60), the access to English within formal educational institutions was severely limited, and existed only in a small number of missionary schools. After 1860, access to English in the educational domain increased greatly, not only within Western Christian institutions whose numbers multiplied in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, but also in the first Chinese schools of foreign languages, including the Tongwen Guan (Interpreter's College) in Beijing (1861), Guang Fangyan Guan (School for Dispersing Languages) in Shanghai (1863) and the Jiangnan Arsenal (1867), also in Shanghai. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, knowledge of English was seen as essential to the modernizing efforts of 'selfstrengtheners' and other reformers. Later, during the 1920s, the Nationalist government sought to regulate the teaching of English within a school system that served the aims of the government, and limited the influence of missionary institutions. Throughout many of these years, the guiding principle for state education was zhongxue weiti, xixue weiyong (that of 'studying China for essence, studying the West for utility').
As this book demonstrates, similar cultural and political concerns have continued to influence the attitude of the government and educational policymakers towards the English language since the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. In this work, Dr Adamson has charted the evolution of government policy towards the English language within the state school system, and his research demonstrates the extent to which such policies