Chinese media organizations and publishers are banned from randomly mixing foreign languages with Chinese in publications. When it is necessary to use foreign phrases or words, they should be accompanied by a translation or explanation in Chinese, according to a new regulation.
The regulation was issued on Monday by the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) with the aim of standardizing the use of language in newspapers and other publications, particularly when foreign languages are employed.
The administration said the increasingly random appearance of foreign words and abbreviations, especially English, in publications is damaging the Chinese language.
Under the regulation, abbreviations such as GDP (gross domestic product), CEO (chief executive officer) and CPI (consumer price index), which regularly feature in publications, should either be translated into Chinese or followed by explanatory notes in Chinese.
This includes requiring the use of English place names, people and companies to be translated into Chinese.
The GAPP instructed local administrative departments of publications to employ the "standardized use of foreign language" as a criterion for evaluating domestic publications and warned that those who fail to follow the regulation will be punished.
Some publishers consider part of the regulation as an "unnecessary" requirement that will complicate the publishing process.
"The intention of protecting the Chinese language is good. But in an age of globalization, when some English acronyms like WTO (World Trade Organization) have been widely accepted by readers, it might be too absolute to eliminate them in all publications," said an editor at a Beijing publishing house, who declined to be named.
"Conversationally, people also use these words all the time, so the regulation could create discord between the oral and written uses of language."
To safeguard the purity of Chinese against the encroaching use of English is an issue that has attracted widespread comments in China, where some have referred to it as "the crisis of Chinese".
China Youth Daily on Tuesday released the results of a survey on the issue, according to which 80 percent of the 3,269 Chinese who responded agreed that their native language is in crisis, with 52 percent laying the blame on "Chinese people now pay more attention to learning English than Chinese".
He Yang, a professor of Chinese at Renmin University of China, conducted a research project in 2009, in which 319 students at four universities in Beijing were tested on their knowledge of Chinese. Only 2 percent of his sample achieved a score of more than 70 out of 100, while 30 percent failed the test.
Earlier this year, Huang Youyi, deputy director of the China International Publishing Group, wrote a proposal in March to the annual session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, in which he stated: "Measures and regulations should be adopted to avoid English invading Chinese."
While some other experts have agreed that the standard use of Chinese should be encouraged, they said it is an exaggeration to brand the situation a crisis.
Ma Zhuanghuan, a professor of linguistics at Beijing International Studies University, said he supports the new regulation, because publishers and members of the media should take the backgrounds of readers into account and not use languages too randomly.
"However, I disagree that mixing languages in publications is detrimental to Chinese, because it is natural for one language to be affected by another in its development," he said.