Briefing paper

A new trend: Pacific Island language teaching as part of the Belt and Road Initiative

Language and languages Pacific languages Relations with China Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Pacific Area


China’s push for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Pacific is receiving growing attention. All eight Pacific Island countries (PICs) that recognise Beijing, including Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu, have signed up to the BRI, an ambitious but controversial program designed to link China with countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and even the Pacific. While much of the spotlight is on the impact of the BRI overseas, this paper takes a unique approach by discussing the start of an ambitious PIC language-teaching program in China and offering a brief case study of Samoan language teaching. It considers the teaching as designed to facilitate the rollout of the BRI in those PICs with which China has diplomatic relations. While the teaching has the potential to promote China’s understanding of the region, the sustainability of teaching languages with relatively few speakers is in question.

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In Brief 2019/14