For years Cantonese speakers in southern China have complained that local culture is being eroded under orders from Beijing, where Mandarin dominates. The recent protests highlight a traditional rivalry between north and south as well as the government’s efforts to bring the country under one language, local residents and experts say.
Cantonese — as the second most spoken dialect in China and until recently the language most common among Chinese living abroad — has long been a key part of Chinese culture.
Generations of Cantonese-speaking immigrants built America’s first Chinatowns and introduced dim sum, chop suey and Bruce Lee (the martial artist and film star was born in San Francisco but mostly grew up in China).
As more Mandarin-speaking migrants from other parts of China move into Guangzhou and other Chinese communities across the world, Cantonese is becoming less prominent, analysts and experts say. And the government is speeding up the process, they say.