Chinese language policy in mainland China is heavily influenced by Soviet nationalities policy and officially encourages the development of standard spoken and written languages for each of the nationalities of China. However, in this schema, Han Chinese are considered a single nationality, and official policy of the People's Republic of China treats the different varieties of the Chinese spoken language differently from the different national languages. For example, while official policies in mainland China encourage the development and use of different orthographies for the national languages and their use in educational and academic settings, the same is not true for the different Chinese spoken languages, despite the fact that they are more different from each other than, for example, the Romance languages of Europe.
Putonghua or Standard Mandarin is the official national spoken language , although autonomous regions and special administrative regions have additional official languages. For example, has official status within the Tibet Autonomous Region and has official status within the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region. Hong Kong and Macau not only have and as official languages respectively, is the legal official spoken Chinese variant, with the use of traditional characters as the official written language.
Unofficially, there are large economic, social and practical incentives to be functional in Putonghua, a standardised form of the group of dialects spoken in northern and southwestern China, which serves as a lingua franca among the different groups within mainland China. In addition, it is also considered increasingly prestigious and useful to have some ability in , which is a required subject for persons attending university. During the 1950s and 1960s, had some social status among elites in mainland China as the international language of socialism.
The Economist, issue April 12, 2006 reported that up to one fifth of the population is learning English. Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, estimated that the total English-speaking population in China will outnumber the native speakers in the rest of the world in two decades.
The spoken languages of nationalities that are a part of the People's Republic of China belong to at least seven families:
*The : 28 nationalities
*The : 17
*The : 4
*The : several languages spoken by the Zhuang, the Buyei, the Dai people, the Dong people, and the .
*The : 2
*The : 1 official nationality , 1 unofficial
*Language isolate: 1
The following languages have traditionally had written forms that do not involve Chinese characters :
*The Mongolians - Mongolian language - Mongolian alphabet
*The Manchus - Manchu language - Manchu alphabet
*The Tibetans - Tibetan language - Tibetan script
*The - Uyghur language - Arabic alphabet
*The Kazakhs - Kazakh language - Arabic alphabet
*The Kyrgyz - Kyrgyz language - Arabic alphabet
*The Koreans - Korean language - Hangul
*The Xibe - Xibe language - Manchu alphabet
*The Dai - Dai language
*The - Yi language -
*The Naxi - Dongba script
Chinese palaces, temples, and coins have traditionally been inscribed in four scripts:
Chinese banknotes contain several scripts in addition to Chinese script. These are:
Ten nationalities who never had a written system have, under the PRC's encouragement, developed phonetic alphabets. According to published in early 2005, "by the end of 2003, 22 ethnic minorities in China used 28 written languages."
Language policy within China is the subject of a number of political controversies mostly having to do with the political status of minority nationalities in China. Some critics of the Beijing government,
such as the Tibetan Government-in-Exile argue that social pressures and political efforts result in a policy of sinicization and often term PRC policies cultural genocide. Supporters of Chinese policies argue that both in theory and in practice that Chinese policies are rather supportive of multilingualism and the development of minority languages, and that China has a far better track record in these issues than some other countries..