Here is an excerpt (emphasis added) from my friend Daisann’s article “Cantonese Is Dead“,
I’ve just landed in Hong Kong only to discover that Cantonese is dead. Sei jo la! It must be true. The New York Times says so. But wait. Their reporter also calls Cantonese a “dialect”. (And determines that Mandarin is a “language”). […]
Anyway, the “Cantonese is Dead” meme gets my dander up for all kinds of reasons. For one, it perpetuates the falsehood that Mandarin is the original Chinese language from which all others are somehow lesser, dialect derivatives. As a student of Cantonese, I resent this perfunctory dismissal of a rich language that is both older and more complex than Mandarin.
But more than that, I get annoyed because the “Rise of Mandarin” meme also feeds the central Chinese government’s distorted propaganda about Chinese ethnicity and identity. In the eyes of Beijing, all Chinese are “Han people”–whatever “Han” is (to my ears, the term carries the creepiness of “White” or “Aryan”). In their universe, all Chinese are “Han” who should be speaking “gwok yu” (national language). And, every right thinking “Han” person from Taipei to Bangkok, from Sheung Wan to Mott Street must fall in line and get with the Motherland program: bowing to the inevitabilty of a new Chinese empire, ruled from Beijing.