Fong, Emily Tsz Yan (2021, March). English in China: Language, identity and culture. London: Routledge (imprint of Taylor & Francis). 198 pp. ISBN: 9781003001225. $160 cloth. (doi: 10.4324/9781003001225) (Link: (Preview pdf:

Overview: This volume explores Chinese identity through the lens of both the Chinese and English languages.

Until the twentieth century, English was a language associated with capitalists and "military aggressors" in China. However, the massive progression of globalisation in China following the 1980s has transformed the language into an important tool for China’s modernisation. Regardless of the role English plays in China, there has always been a fear there that the spread of culture(s) associated with English would lead to weakening of the Chinese identity. This fear resulted in the development of the ti-yong principle: "Chinese learning for essence (ti), Western learning for utility (yong)."

Fong’s book aims to enhance understanding of the ti-yong dichotomy in relation to people’s sense of being Chinese in China, the penetration of English into non-English speaking societies, the resultant tensions in people’s sense of personal and national identity, and their place in the world. Using Q methodology, the book presents observations based on data collected from four participant groups, namely high school and university students, teachers and parents in China, to investigate their perspectives on the status and roles of English, as well as those of Chinese.

Considering the growing international interest in China, this volume will appeal to readers interested in China’s contemporary society in general, its language, culture and identity. It will be a useful resource for academics, researchers and students in the field of applied linguistics, language education and Chinese cultural studies and can also be adopted as a reference book for undergraduate courses relating to language, identity and culture.



Chapter 1. China and “being Chinese”

Chapter 2. English in China: Education policies, changing roles and Chinese identity

Chapter 3. “English learning with Chinese characteristics” or “ti-yong dilemma”?

Chapter 4. Q methodology: A semi-quantitative approach to discourse analysis

Q methodology is an approach to studying attitudes, beliefs and feelings. This study uses Q methodology to collect data from four participant groups, namely high school students, university students, teachers and parents in China, to investigate their perspectives on the status and roles of English. The Q methodology consisted of two phases: questionnaires and interviews. While the interviews elicited more in-depth discussions, the questionnaires served to provide an overview of the diverse popular discourses about English that exist in China. They were analysed using statistical software PQMethod, which was specifically designed for Q methodology studies, with factor analysis being a fundamental part. This chapter explains the theoretical constructs and procedures of Q methodology as it was adopted in this study.

Chapter 5. Q sort results: An overview of existing discourses about English and “being Chinese”

This chapter presents the results of the Q methodology questionnaires completed by Chinese students, teachers and parents, investigating their attitudes towards English. As the 87 participants completed the questionnaires, meaningful factors were extracted in the factor analysis of their responses. The views characterising each factor are presented in the form of a narrative which is taken as discourse. In constructing the narrative or discourse, special attention was paid to the most salient and discriminating views. This chapter uncovers the unique and diverse perspectives on English within each participant group as well as the similarities and differences among the four groups.

Chapter 6. Grounded theory, keywords approach and critical discourse analysis

Chapter 7. “When we see a foreigner in the streets, we are no longer too surprised as if we see a monster. It’s all commonplace now, they are like us as people”: Development of a Chinese plus global identity

Chapter 8. “There used to be a thinking that all countries in the world were very hostile towards China, but after you understand more, it turns out that they are not that hostile”: “Multiple worlds” and “English-speaking self”

Chapter 9. Mandarin and the plurality of “being Chinese”

Chapter 10. “Being Chinese” in the global world


Emily Tsz Yan Fong <> is in the School of Culture, History and Language, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.