Bashing foreign-language teaching as an excuse to "promote" teaching the "national language" is a global phenomenon. It assumes that education is a zero-sum game. Sadly, the Chinese gaokao system IS somewhat of a zero-sum game. One can only teach so many subjects, students have only a finite amount of "brain space" for each subject, and all subjects are tightly prioritized according to how they impact the odds of success at the gaokao. Period.
I agree that studying a foreign language can improve one's overall literacy, stimulate interest in reading and writing in general, and indirectly benefit one's ability to communicate in one's own language. But that assumes it is taught in a way that stimulates the students. I'm not sure the trend of the last few years -- to formally insist on good fluency by the end of high school, and to test for it on the gaokao -- is the best way to skin the cat, i.e., ensure that most students gain a solid grasp of the language.
It's too late to turn back the clock, actually. Even if the importance of English scores on the gaokao were downgraded, or given less weight by certain universities when considering applications, I don't believe that would result in less study of English now. Everyone in China understands that English is the key to all sorts of success in China and abroad, and if they played it down in the national curriculum, aspirational parents nationwide would still find a way to get their children educated in English. I'm not kidding; I really believe that.
Look at HK. In the mid-80s, the government -- very reasonably, given the reversion of HK to China in 1997 -- implemented various policies aimed at promoting mother-tongue teaching. But working-class parents voted with their feet and their pocket-books, and moved their children out of Chinese-language schools and into so-called "anglo-Chinese" schools -- the very ones the government wanted to "convert" to teaching in Chinese -- where Cantonese speakers teach largely in Cantonese, but use English textbooks and test mainly in English. Everyone knows that the level of teaching at the anglo-Chinese schools can be pretty poor, and some of the teachers -- I know, I taught at one -- can't even converse in English. But the language of instruction is perceived to be English, and that matters. English education is the Holy Grail; it is perceived as the ticket out of a working-class existence, and it is the ultimate way to say, "Fuck the xxx Party and its iron grip on our children's minds." (由于众所周知的原因，此处文字有所改动。)
China is not HK and relatively few parents in China can "choose" their school. But they will pay through their teeth to have their children taught English; if not in public school, then by a tutor or at a private school or a cram school. This is what China's earlier revolutionaries referred to as 不可抵抗的潮流 . And with so many English-learning tools on the Internet, and so much neat English content -- movies, YouKu, TV shows, you name it -- students are no longer so dependent on school-time to master English.
So perhaps I'm not as negative as you about calls to reduce English teaching in the pre-university schools. If its importance were to be downgraded in the context of the gaokao, it might even be taught in a less stressful, and more lighthearted way. Who knows? That might be a good thing.