Original Paper

Language Policy

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 359-376

First online:

China’s foreign language policy on primary English education: What’s behind it?

  • Yuanyuan HuAffiliated withDepartment of English, Purdue University Email author 

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This paper examines the formulation of China’s foreign language policy on primary English education issued in 2001, specifically exploring factors contributing to the formulation of the policy and problems in its formulation. Drawing upon official documents, newspaper archives, publications, and an interview with an education official, it identifies five contributing factors and six problems in relation to policy formulation. The paper argues that the policy, jointly shaped by social, economic, educational, linguistic, and political forces, was the outcome of top-down, assumption-based, and hasty policymaking. The Chinese case exemplifies the impact of the global spread of English on foreign language policy in non-English speaking countries.


China Contributing factors Foreign language policy Primary English education Problems in policy formulation