Welcome to the cutting edge of Thailand’s flirtation with Chinese, an ancient language increasingly seen as the new dialect of diplomacy and trade in East Asia. In the last few decades, China’s economic rise has rippled across the globe, jolting policymakers and dazzling investors.
In its wake, Mandarin is also making gains.
Just as the US leveraged its superpower status to promote its language and culture, Beijing is busy exporting its tongue. It may lag behind English as a global language, but there’s no doubting its rising appeal, especially in Asia.
Thailand hasn’t turned its back on English: It’s still compulsory in public schools, and likely to remain so. But starting from this year, thousands of schools will introduce Chinese as a foreign language, with a target of enrolling 30 percent of all high school students in programs within five years.