European media reported last month that a Finish university had closed its affiliated Confucius Institute following concerns related to Chinese soft power, espionage, and an attempt to block discussions on Tibet. According to a report by Euractiv:
June 21, 2022 A cooperation contract between Helsinki University and the Confucius Institute will be terminated following accusations of spreading Chinese soft power, conducting espionage, and an attempt to block discussions on Tibet. Helsinki University has hosted a Confucius Institute focused on teaching the Chinese language and culture since 2007. The cooperation has been based on a partnership with the Renmin University of China, which sent teachers to Helsinki each year. The Confucius Institutes were launched in 2004, and there are now 525 institutes in 146 countries. Over the years, they have been accused of being Trojan horses spreading Chinese soft power and even conducting espionage. Chinese teachers, paid by the Chinese government, are said to avoid topics such as the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the Cultural Revolution. Two years ago, Helsinki’s Confucius Institute attempted to block discussions on Tibet.
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The Euractiv report notes that Belgium closed its Confucius Institute in 2019, Sweden and Denmark in 2020, and Norway in 2021.
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.
Past Global Influence Operations Report coverage on China’s Confucius Institutes (CI) has included:
- In May, we reported on a study concluding 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.
- 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.