Confucius Institutes


Con­fu­cian 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.

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Crit­i­cism of the Con­fu­cian Insti­tutes comes large­ly from a col­lec­tion of con­ser­v­a­tive think tanks as well as from the FBI. Accord­ing to the con­ser­v­a­tive Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Schol­ars:  

Han­ban, the CCP agency over­see­ing Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes, cur­rent­ly holds a remark­able lev­el of con­trol over the insti­tutes’ cur­ric­u­la and fac­ul­ty. Con­se­quent­ly, CIs func­tion more as pro­pa­gan­da out­lets and less as the “lin­guis­tic and cul­tur­al cen­ters” they pur­port to be. CIs rou­tine­ly sweep Chi­nese polit­i­cal his­to­ry and human rights abus­es under the rug; they speak of Tai­wan and Tibet as undis­put­ed ter­ri­to­ries of Chi­na; they fre­quent­ly recruit card-car­ry­ing mem­bers of the CCP to instruct cours­es; and, as Peter­son puts it, they teach “a gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can stu­dents to know noth­ing more of Chi­na than the regime’s offi­cial his­to­ry.” As of now, the Han­ban sim­ply has to throw large sums of mon­ey at col­lege and uni­ver­si­ty admin­is­tra­tions to coerce com­pli­ance.  

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In 2018, the FBI direc­tor Christo­pher Wray tes­ti­fied before a US Sen­ate pan­el:  

We do share con­cerns about the Con­fu­cius insti­tutes,” Wray respond­ed. “We’ve been watch­ing that devel­op­ment for a while. It’s just one of many tools that they take advan­tage of. We have seen some decrease recent­ly in their own enthu­si­asm and com­mit­ment to that par­tic­u­lar pro­gram, but it is some­thing that we’re watch­ing war­i­ly and in cer­tain instances have devel­oped appro­pri­ate inves­tiga­tive steps.”  

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The Insti­tutes do also have their defend­ers. For exam­ple, accord­ing to Inside High­er Ed, a promi­nent US aca­d­e­m­ic has said:  

Mar­shall Sahlins, the Charles F. Grey Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus of Anthro­pol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go and the author of Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes: Aca­d­e­m­ic Mal­ware (Prick­ly Par­a­digm Press, 2015), a book crit­i­cal of CIs, said he thinks the main rea­son for the clo­sures is “pres­sure from the Amer­i­can right, includ­ing the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Schol­ars [which issued a crit­i­cal report of CIs in 2017], as well as law­mak­ers, and from secu­ri­ty agen­cies of the U.S., notably the FBI: a coali­tion of polit­i­cal forces respond­ing dis­tant­ly to the devel­op­ing Cold War with Chi­na — rais­ing even old­er ter­rors such as Com­mu­nism and the Yel­low Per­il — and prox­i­mate­ly to drum­beat rumors that CIs are cen­ters of espi­onage. Those that give oth­er, face-sav­ing rea­sons are prob­a­bly pro­tect­ing their aca­d­e­m­ic cum finan­cial rela­tions to Chi­na, such their intake of tuition-pay­ing main­land stu­dents.”  

Read the rest here.