Even though many more people have taken up the study of Chinese, there are still not enough doing so, according to this article. It says there are 40 million foreigners learning Chinese. But how many will actually become speakers of Chinese? I think the drop out rate is very high. And what percentage of learners reach a decent level of reading skill in Chinese?
For reading, it really helps to know what word to expect next. If you know what words are likely to come next then you can read much faster with only a glance at the words or characters. Just like a cloze test, if you can't fill in the blanks then you are not familiar enough with the language so while reading you have to do a lot more work. In Chinese and Japanese as well, it becomes much more critical because there is often no clue to the pronunciation of the words. A strong knowledge of the language will make reading much easier which is why I would recommend learners to put off learning to read Chinese or Japanese until they have a good command of the language.
To me, it does not matter how many learners there are of Chinese if the success rate is low. If, for example, you have 100 million learners of Chinese but only 10 million of them are successful, that is worse than having 40 million learners where 20 million succeed. What we must consider is the final outcome and not just the number "in progress."
My formula for success is listening, then speaking, then reading, and finally writing. Each one reinforces the next. If all aspects of language learning are undertaken at once, then where is the reinforcement?