Britain pumps up Chinese language training

Updated: 2014-02-21 00:52

By Zhang Chunyan in London (China Daily)

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The British government will grant children chances to study Chinese as part of efforts to pave the way for future trade and tourism cooperation with China, British Chancellor George Osborne said on Thursday.

In a speech to businessmen in Hong Kong, he disclosed a new grant for the training of Chinese-language teachers in 50 London schools, which will reach up to 3,000 primary school pupils.

"I want thousands more children in Britain to learn this language of the future world economy," said Osborne, whose daughter is already learning Chinese.

This is the first time that the British government has provided grants for Chinese-language education in primary schools. The move aims to equip the new British generation to expand investment, commerce and tourism with the world's second-largest economy.

"These are just a few small steps forward in a relationship between Britain, Hong Kong and China that gets deeper and richer every year," Osborne said.

Osborne arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday for a two-day visit before he flies to Sydney for the meeting of G20 finance ministers. It is his second visit to China in six months.

"Some see the rise of China, the success of Hong Kong, the growth of Asia as a threat to the West. They call it a ‘race to the bottom' and they want Western countries like mine to pull up the drawbridge and close the shutters," Osborne said.

The chancellor said that for him the relationship is about more than economics and the bottom line. "It's about how we view our world and the extraordinary change it is going through."

Britain has been a main destination for Chinese investment in financial services, development and tourism.

According to the Chinese embassy in the UK, Chinese investment in the country reached $13 billion in the past two years, exceeding the total of the previous three decades. China-UK bilateral trade reached a high in 2013, exceeding $70 billion.

Top British officials have stressed their focus on promoting relations with China.

In December, British Prime Minister David Cameron said on his return from a three-day trip to China: "I want Britain linked up to the world's fast-growing economies. And that includes our young people learning the languages to seal tomorrow's business deals."

"By the time the children born today leave school, China is set to be the world's largest economy," Cameron said.

At the same time, British luxury stores and brands are competing head to head to attract more Chinese visitors.

Osborne also disclosed that British store John Lewis will accept credit cards in the Chinese currency, the yuan.

"Over the last two years, sales to Chinese shoppers at John Lewis Oxford Street have grown 113 percent and Chinese visitors are now our biggest-spending international group," said Andrew Murphy, retail director of John Lewis.

In 2012, the store started to accept China UnionPay payments in Sterling and Murphy said, "We will be building on this to offer China UnionPay payments in Chinese currency later this year."

The benefit of this is that the transaction doesn't require currency exchange.

In 2012, Chinese travelers became the world's biggest spenders, shelling out about $102 billion overseas, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

There will be an estimated 100 million Chinese traveling abroad annually by the end of 2015, the organization estimated.