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Confucius Institute Teachers Not Directed by the CCP but Highly Politically Compliant, Study Finds

May 12th, 2022 14:29

The Stan­ford Cen­ter on China’s Econ­o­my and Insti­tu­tions (SCCEI) recent­ly pub­lished a study exam­in­ing whether China’s gov­ern­ment exerts con­trol over teach­ers at China’s Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes (CI) and how it might shape their behav­ior. The study found that while the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment does not seem to pro­vide any overt direc­tion or con­trol of CI teach­ers, they still exhib­it a high degree of polit­i­cal com­pli­ance while work­ing abroad :

April 1, 2022 Spon­sored by China’s gov­ern­ment, Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes (CIs) com­prise the world’s largest gov­ern­ment-fund­ed cul­ture and lan­guage pro­mo­tion pro­gram, and cur­rent­ly oper­ate at uni­ver­si­ties and schools in over 160 coun­tries. Over time, the CIs have received scruti­ny for pur­port­ed­ly serv­ing as vehi­cles of Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty (CCP) pro­pa­gan­da, cen­sor­ship, and indoc­tri­na­tion beyond China’s bor­ders. Yet, lit­tle is known about whether China’s gov­ern­ment exerts con­trol over CI teach­ers, how it might shape the behav­ior of CI teach­ers, and whether CI teach­ers cen­sor polit­i­cal­ly sen­si­tive top­ics or per­pet­u­ate gov­ern­ment nar­ra­tives. […] Analy­sis of the sur­vey exper­i­ment data finds that CI teach­ers report fre­quent­ly espous­ing the CCP’s posi­tion even with­out spe­cif­ic instruc­tion or prompt­ing regard­ing what to say or do when encoun­ter­ing sen­si­tive polit­i­cal top­ics abroad. With no reminder at all (neu­tral state­ment as con­trol), more than 70% of CI teach­ers report­ed they would change the sub­ject and pre­vent their stu­dents and/or col­leagues from fur­ther express­ing their views; or sim­ply echo the offi­cial CCP line that Tai­wan was part of the PRC. Those receiv­ing the reminder to adhere to PRC dis­ci­pli­nary prin­ci­ples were 10% more will­ing to echo the CCP line and 14% less like­ly to self-cen­sor. Inter­view data from CI teach­ers also sug­gest that even those teach­ers who fos­ter open dis­cus­sion on con­tro­ver­sial top­ics such as Tai­wan do so in order to per­suade oth­ers that the CCP’s posi­tion is cor­rect, not to stim­u­late gen­uine debate.

Read the full study here.

Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes are pub­lic edu­ca­tion­al part­ner­ships between col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in Chi­na and col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in oth­er coun­tries. In 2019, Inside High­er Ed described Con­fu­cian Insti­tutes as follows:

The Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes have long been con­tro­ver­sial. The cen­ters vary some­what across dif­fer­ent cam­pus­es, but they typ­i­cal­ly offer some com­bi­na­tion of Man­darin lan­guage class­es, cul­tur­al pro­gram­ming and out­reach to K‑12 schools and the com­mu­ni­ty more broad­ly. They are staffed in part with vis­it­ing teach­ers from Chi­na and fund­ed by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, with match­ing resources pro­vid­ed by the host insti­tu­tion. The num­ber of U.S. uni­ver­si­ties host­ing the insti­tutes increased rapid­ly after the first was estab­lished at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land Col­lege Park in 2004, grow­ing to more than 90 at the peak.

Read the rest here.

Past Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report cov­er­age on China’s Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes has included:

  • In Novem­ber 2021, we report­ed on the pub­li­ca­tion of a French Sen­ate report on Chi­nese influ­ence in France, which ded­i­cat­ed a sec­tion to China’s use of its Con­fu­cius Institutes.
  • In Octo­ber 2021, we report­ed that fol­low­ing pres­sure from Chi­na, two Ger­man Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes can­celed a book pre­sen­ta­tion of a crit­i­cal biog­ra­phy of Chi­nese pres­i­dent Xi Jinping.
  • In July 2021, we report­ed that Germany’s edu­ca­tion min­istry announced it would invest mil­lions of Euros in com­bat­ing Chi­nese influ­ence over Ger­man Uni­ver­si­ties and that the Ger­man Edu­ca­tion Min­is­ter called on uni­ver­si­ties to cut off coop­er­a­tion with the Con­fu­cius Institutes.

For more GIOR cov­er­age on the Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes, go here.