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What the CIA thought about Pinyin


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Am now worried Geraldc is trying to arrange assassinations of proponents of unorthodox orthographies.


"If the Communists have their way in China, the age-old characters of the Chinese language will finally join the Egyptian and Mayan hieroglyphics and the more recently buried Vietnamese ideographs in oblivion."

Wow. Communism has failed. Official. 

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Funny how inconsistent the author of the article is in his/her own transcription. 日 is written first as jih and then as ri, the pinyin for 公园 is written as gung-yuan, and no apostrophes to be seen. It's clear the general standard used by the author is Wade-Giles, but there are all kinds of mistakes and inconsistencies.

Interesting to see how big a deal this was. These days everyone is used to the idea that all Chinese - place names, people's names, words - can be written in pinyin, but at the time that was clearly revolutionary.

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Illiterate recruits for communication battalions from Kwangtung province and the Kwangsi Chuang Autonomous Region are said to have learned Pinyin in three or four months with the help of teaching aids like "Pinyin poker" and "military terminology contests," and training in radio operation could therefore be reduced from a year to six months and still yield a five-fold improvement in transmissions


Those evil Russians. 


I actually feel sorry that this did not go any further. Poor Chinese kids, they are still being forced to struggle with 汉字. As much as it is good to learn Chinese characters, it is too 费力. 

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I liked the use of the term "ample" rather than "traditional".


 "when General Hsiao Hua of the Chinese People's Liberation Army began using the short form of his surname in public dispatches instead of the ample there was much comment among scholars of the old school".


I'm going to try bring it back. For someone still struggling to write characters, "traditional" doesn't seem an apt term, but "ample", with its meaning of more than enough, is perfect


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It can thus be seen that the replacement of the old writing with the new phonetic alphabet, although it is not being accomplished overnight, is making substantial progress under the steady pushing of the regime, and that after less than three years we in intelligence are beginning to feel its effects. It would be premature to say that we should be giving active consideration to the adoption of Pinyin ourselves in Chinese gazeteers, maps, biographic registers, alphabetical files, language training, and standard nomenclature; aside from the still experimental status of some phases of the Communist program and our uncertainty about the rapidity of its future progress, the new system would be a hindrance in processing material concerning or obtained through the Chinese on Taiwan and elsewhere in the anti-Communist diaspora.


The issue of whether or not analysts should endorse Pinyin seems to have generated lots of debate. I have a friend who was a "China Watcher" for most of his government career, starting in the late 60's. He told me he came down on the side of Pinyin, but he still to this day sends me things such as, "Oh, I hear you are heading to Kwangchow this weekend" or "Chunking is really hot this time of year."

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