January 7, 2007
Written by C.N.
In recent years, China has opened up over a hundred “Confucius Institutes” in 50 countries around the U.S., including several in the U.S. (the latest one is at the Univ. of MA at Boston). The goal of such institutes is to promote the learning of Chinese language and culture and academic exchange with host universities. But as the Christian Science Monitor reports, others feel there might be ulterior motives to China’s Confucius Institutes:
In fact, the CI is only one initiative in a large-scale charm offensive that China has launched in recent years. Education, culture, foreign aid, the Olympics – all these “soft power” tools aim to attract people to China’s rising status rather than intimidate them, say analysts. . . .
The institutes are joint ventures, almost always housed within a university. A partner school in China sends teachers; the local school provides office space and staff; China also gives institutes in the US grants ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, which the local universities usually match. . . .
But as CIs in the US start up, some university faculty members remain skeptical of their presence on college campuses, raising concerns about the potential for political interference from the Chinese government. . . Some professors fear that China will try to silence other viewpoints taught on campus. “It’s very important to keep [CI and CEAS] separate,” says Ms. Gerbert of the University of Kansas, to avoid any academic interference with, say, research on human rights in China.
I’ve made no secret of my suspicions regarding China’s motives for recent educational policies. However, I think this situation is different because they are now on American turf — geographically, culturally, and politically. In the academic world, faculty and administrators are fiercely independent and will not tolerate “outsiders” even trying to dictate to them how such academic programs are run.
Therefore, I think the suspicions regarding such Confucius Institutes are valid, but probably a little overblown. Even if China were to try to unduly influence these academic programs, they would not get very far at all.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "China Opening Confucius Institutes in US" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/01/china-opening-confucius-institutes-in-us/> ().
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