Indonesians Seek Words to Attract China’s Favor

Some leaders in Indonesia are preparing children for future business careers working with China by enforcing Mandarin classes in local schools. From the New York Times:

In classrooms here, girls in white head scarves and boys in button-down shirts are haltingly reciting from Chinese textbooks and scrawling characters on blackboards. The local government has held Mandarin speech contests the past two years.

“It’s like watching kung-fu movies,” Mr. Masfuk said of the wonder of hearing students speaking Mandarin during the contests. Like many Indonesians, he uses just one name.

The policy goes against decades of anti-Chinese hostility in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country. But things are changing, and the Chinese government is now sending hundreds of teachers to Indonesia, including one who has taught in Lamongan.

As China’s economic power grows, the study of Mandarin is surging around the world. Its rise in Indonesia may be one of the most telling examples of how China’s influence is overflowing even the steepest of barriers.


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