Picked up a useful and dated little book called About Chinese, that introduces Chinese to, well, anyone wishing to be introduced to it. Wrtten in 1971, which is the past and hence another country: they do things differently there:
But then why learn to speak Mandarin?Somehow 'has had' doesn't seem the right tense to use about the Cultural Revolution c. 1971; but maybe he was going by Mao's own proclamations and not actual conditions?
Largely because it might be useful: the prospects of travel to China are far from bleak. (J note: need I say the author is British, or could you figure that from internal stylistic evidence?) When this book was in first draft, the Peking authorities were launched on a full-scale tourist drive... Since then the country has had a 'cultural revolution', one of whose side-effects was a new allocation of economic priorities following the chaos early in 1967; the drive to attract foreign visitors seemed at an end. But the priorities, significantly, were economic rather than political. (J note: they were?) There is money in tourism... The tourists will soon reappear, their journey made easier and cheaper by growing competition among travel agencies anxious to build up the Far Eastern circuit.
Whatever, this makes me more sanguine about another statement of his:
For the foreigner, classical Chinese and the literary style of writing must remain specialist subjects. They require at least five years of groundwork, and this, enough time for two Western languages and their literatures to be laid open, is not willingly spared by many peoplebecause otherwise I'd be saying Oh shut up in a very cross tone indeed. Two and a half years of study-- not intense study, you know, just the usual-- would see me conversant in German and its various authors? would give me a good grasp of Magyar? is quite enough time to read through most of French literature? I very much Do Not Think So. Really, she mutters, these people who read 300 pages in an hour or two, like Meril and her ilk: we hates them, we do, oh my precious yes. And more when they read foreign languages that fast.