Language is a political resource, mobilized by different people for different purposes. This is a familiar idea; there are scholarly works, newspaper columns and movies about the deliberately strategic use of language by politicians. For example, in the China studies sphere, President Xi Jinping’s linguistic stamp – “Chinese Dream” [“中国梦”] – prompts commentary. But beyond the particular words chosen by politicians, the very language used as their standard medium of communication is also a political, symbolically-loaded, identity-forming choice. Likewise for non-politicians, language is a political and identity forming resource, a source of symbolic and other values. In my research, I start from the premise that language use by everyday people, not politicians, is also very interesting. In the context of China, the use of languages other than Putonghua (the standard Chinese language) is particularly interesting. In China, what are foreign and minority languages mobilized for? What do they symbolise? Who uses them, and who sticks to Putonghua; when and why? These questions reveal something of the diversity within China. They lead to knowledge about geopolitics and social change within China.