Scottish media is reporting a prominent Scottish politician has defended Chinese Confucius Institutes in the wake of a possible UK government crackdown on the organizations. According to a report in The National, Alex Salmond has called for an end to the “Cold War mentality” toward China:
November 2, 2022 Alex Salmond has called for an end to the “Cold War mentality” towards China after it was announced the Government may crack down on Confucius Institutes over fears they threaten “civil liberties” in the UK. The Alba leader defended Confucius Institutes, claiming they were cultural exchanges, though the UK security agencies, the Government and expert observers believe they are used to control the behaviour, opinions and lives of Chinese students living in the UK. It comes after security minister Tom Tugendhat told MPs on Tuesday the organisations “pose a threat to civil liberties in many universities in the United Kingdom”. In 2021, we revealed how one former Chinese diplomat claimed the Chinese Communist Party was controlling students with student associations. Confucius Institutes claim they exist to promote “understanding of contemporary China”. The former first minister has accused opponents of the institutes of risking military confrontation with China. He said: “The Scottish Government should defend these valuable cultural exchanges and oppose any attempts by the UK Government to close them down. “We have nothing to fear from talking and exchanging culture. The real danger is from those who wish to divide the world into armed camps and who wish to shut Scotland out from the international community.” There are Confucius Institutes in the University of Glasgow, Heriot Watt University, University of Aberdeen, University of Strathclyde and the University of Edinburgh. Salmond, who severed his links with Vladimir Putin’s regime earlier this year following the invasion of Ukraine, is among a small number of people in UK politics calling for a close relationship with China.
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Scotland reportedly has the greatest number of Confucius Institutes per capita in the world.
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.
Finland closed its Confucius Institute in June, Belgium in 2019, Sweden and Denmark in 2020, and Norway in 2021.