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The history of Chinese
Names and writing system
Chinese today by Viv Edwards
Putonghua, also known as Mandarin, is spoken by an estimated 874 million, and Cantonese by 70 million people.
Many refugees from Vietnam are also ethnic Chinese who either speak Cantonese or use it as the language of wider communication in the Chinese community. They had played an active role in the Vietnamese economy, but were often denied official employment and educational opportunities. Racist feeling increased following a border dispute in 1978 when large numbers began to flee the country.
Scattered communities of Chinese seamen date back to the nineteenth century in ports such as Cardiff, Liverpool and Bristol. The largest group of overseas Chinese in the UK today, however, came from Hong Kong in the 1960s and 1970s. Following the requisition of land for development purposes and an influx of refugees from the People's Republic of China during the Cultural Revolution, unemployment became a serious problem. Many people, especially those with little formal education, sought work in catering businesses overseas. Later, with the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, new arrivals came increasingly from professional backgrounds.
With changes in policy in the People's Republic of China and the growing dependence of British universities on overseas students, small but growing numbers are being allowed to study and work in the UK.
Today, there are an estimated 300,000 Chinese in the UK with important communities in Birmingham, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Newcastle. In London, Cantonese was the eleventh most widely spoken language in a 2000 survey of schoolchildren, with the highest proportions living in Hackney, Southwark, Lambeth and Greenwich.
Celebrations such as the Chinese New Year and the Dragon Boat Festival provide an opportunity for the wider community to enjoy Chinese culture, at the same time as raising funds for community groups working to keep Chinese languages and traditions alive.
Three Chinese language newspapers and periodicals serve the UK community. Local radio stations broadcasting in Chinese include Me FM in Aberdeen.