Character assassination

My Chinese-language textbook tells me earnestly that:

The ultimate aim of the reform being carried out in the Chinese writing system is to gradually replace the ideograms with a phonetic writing system. Before this can be done, the characters should first of all be simplified and the number of strokes of the characters reduced so as to relieve much of the burden of both users and learners of Chinese

That’s undoubtedly somewhat over-optimistic; no wholesale conversion to pinyin is likely in the near future. But apparently in the 25 years since it was published, character reforms have not just slowed down, but are [under threat of being reversed](

At this year’s CPPCC session, representative Pan Qinglin submitted a proposal to abandon simplified characters in favor of traditional forms.
His reasoning:

  1. The first round of simplifications in the 1950s was accomplished too hastily, producing a result that betrayed the fundamental aesthetic and scientific principles underlying Chinese characters.
  2. They’ve outlived their usefulness, since flexible computer input methods have been developed that handle simplified and traditional characters equally well.
  3. Reviving the use of traditional characters would foster cross-straits unity by bringing the mainland in line with Taiwan, which still uses what are called “standard characters” (正体字).

Assorted arguments for and against are summarised [here]( My – entirely selfish – reaction is to fervently hope that the simplified characters stay put.

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