A leading independent school has made the study of Chinese compulsory for new pupils.
The new headmaster of Brighton College, Richard Cairns, said that its intake of 13-year-olds would start learning the language from September.
His predecessor, Anthony Seldon, the Prime Minister's biographer and the new master at Wellington College, Berkshire, will stage a conference for independent and state school headteachers to promote the language next month.
Mr Cairns said: "This year China replaced Britain as the world's fourth-largest economy. We in Britain need to face up to this challenge ... A better understanding of the language and culture of China will be hugely to the advantage of the children of Brighton College."
Chinese and French will be the school's two compulsory languages. Every pupil will have one lesson a week in Mandarin, the primary Chinese language, even into the sixth form.
Mr Seldon said: "I think it is as important for children to learn Mandarin as French. China will overtake America as the number one superpower during the 21st century. It is essential we encourage our children to learn about what is the world's biggest country."Reuse content