Middle East’s Mandarin push sets the tone for ‘convergence’ with China on trade
Language learning is a ‘reciprocal gesture’ to China’s soft power as the region eyes closer ties via the Belt and Road Initiative, one analyst saysBut Arab students are unlikely to find Mandarin as attractive as European languages, given ‘historical perceptions’ and a shortage of native teachersMiddle EastTom HussainPublished: 9:30am, 18 Sep, 2023Why you can trust SCMP
For both the Saudi and Emirati governments, “there is not only a recognition that China is an important global player, but also an implicit understanding that the Chinese market is one to watch closely”, said Clemens Chay, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.
Mandarin language classes “are a reciprocal gesture to China’s deployment of soft power”, he said.
Saudi Arabia, China’s largest trading partner in the Middle East, last month made it compulsory for public and private secondary schools to hold twice-weekly Mandarin classes for one semester each year.