BEIJING – Nearly half of China's 1.3 billion people can't speak Mandarin, the country's official language, a news report said Tuesday.
An Education Ministry study found only 53 percent of the public can speak the version of Mandarin known as "putonghua," or "the common language," the China Daily said.
The communist government has promoted putonghua since 1956 as a common language to bind together a vast country with dozens of languages and dialects. It is used in schools, government meetings and for television and radio television broadcasts.
"Without a common language, people are unable to understand each other. This has become an obstacle to China's social and economic development," Yuan Zhongrui, director of the ministry's putonghua popularization department, was quoted as saying.