“In a Foreign Bubble” in China: Language Use Among International Students During China’s Belt and Road

Yi Wang, Wenhao Diao

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This study examines ideologies about language use and policy among international students studying in China against the backdrop of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Drawing from ethnographic and interview data collected at an international business program in Shanghai, this chapter investigates how institutional language ideologies become contested in international students’ academic experience in China. Data collection spanned the course of 6 months and included interviews, classroom and participant observations, and artifacts. Findings showed that, due to the belief of English being the international language, students formed a so-called English-speaking “foreign bubble” environment to justify the avoidance of Chinese. Yet, their belief of English as an international language was challenged by the faculty and staff’s assumption that Chinese is necessary for studying in China. These results shed light on the linguistic dilemmas and tensions in the attempt to enhance China’s soft power through study abroad using English.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEducational Linguistics
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NameEducational Linguistics
ISSN (Print)1572-0292
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1656


  • Belt and road initiative
  • Chinese
  • English
  • English-medium programs
  • Language policy
  • Language use
  • Study abroad

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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