Saturday, February 19, 2011

Confucius Institutes: Beware =UPDATED=

Epoch Times wrote on this a while back:
Besides his explosive comments that some Canadian politicians could be under foreign influence, CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) Director Richard Fadden also exposed the danger posed by the quiet expansion of Confucius Institutes in Canadian post-secondary schools.

While the Chinese regime promotes the institutes as a place to learn Chinese language and culture, they are commonly seen as part of Beijing’s efforts to expand its soft power and non-military influence. Critics of the institutes allege they are propaganda entities that can interfere with the academic independence of the universities they are often attached to.

Speaking to an audience of police, military and intelligence personnel at the Royal Canadian Military Institute in March, Fadden said the institutes are controlled by Chinese embassies and consulates. He lumped them together with some of Bejing’s other efforts to steer Canadian China policy.

Evidence was on display during Hu's visit to Canada in June when a crowd of hundreds gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to both welcome Hu and shout down protesters concerned with human-rights abuses in China. In the crowd were a group wearing T-shirts with labels identifying them as being from Montreal's Confucius Institute, which is hosted at Dawson College.

The recording of a speech at the Chinese embassy obtained by The Epoch Times showed the rally was funded and organized by the embassy with the intent of waging "war" with protesters. Several groups have now called for the expulsion of Mr. Liu Shaohua, the embassy official caught on tape.
Last night in Taipei I met a few academics from Europe who had some very scary stories to tell. I was informed that China has already begun quietly refusing visas to students of professors who are pro-Taiwan or anti-China. How is it collecting the intelligence necessary to fine-tune these refusals? On-campus Confucius Institutes. The Institutes, they said, also attempt to suppress criticism of China and to shape what is taught on campus through the usual tactics of bribery and intimidation. At at least one EU university, the professors banded together and tossed the Confucius Institute of campus because of its campaign of intimidation.

Epoch Times continues:
In 2006, one faculty member at Stockholm University’s institute tried to stop the school’s Center for Asia Pacific from having Erping Zhang as a visiting scholar because of his volunteer work for the U.S.-based Falun Dafa Information Center. An email from that professor was sent to the university’s faculty alleging Zhang was not a scholar, despite having five degrees including a Master's in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

In Israel, a judge ruled Tel Aviv University had bowed to the Chinese regime by shutting down an art exhibition about the oppression of Falun Gong in China put on bystudents because the school feared losing perks provided by the Chinese regime, including a Confucius Institute.

As the University of Sydney closed a deal to have its own Confucius Institute in 2007, Jocelyn Chey, a former diplomat and visiting professor there told the Australian that having the institute on campus was going to make it difficult for academics to maintain their freedom and independence.

The University of Pennsylvania never applied to host an institute over concerns the regime would try to meddle with its curriculum while the University of British Columbia declined an offer to host one.
Confucius Institutes have two, and only two, functions: one is propaganda, and the other is intelligence on the academic community. Watch out for the one in your neighborhood; its presence is entirely inimical to the development of robust critical views of China, academic freedom, and democratic politics.

ADDED: Nathan notes in the comments that the Confucius Institutes are supervised by the PRC's education ministry. He also passed me this link to this article on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report which says basically that US public diplomacy is woefully underfunded.

ADDED: I forgot to add that Confucius Institutes in certain European countries are also trying to put their officials on the boards of local Asia societies in order to control their content and block Taiwan and Tibet-related programs, even apolitical business and investment activities.

UPDATED: This link goes to a Chron of Higher Ed article on the Confucius Institutes. And here's a link to a relatively positive article.

UPDATED: Glen Anthony May has excellent piece in Asia Sentinel on the Confucius Institutes.
They come with visible strings attached. Some of the strings can be seen in the memoranda of understanding that US universities conclude with Hanban. Among other things, they must state their support for the "one China policy" – the decades-old US policy of not recognizing the legitimacy of the Republic of China on Taiwan.

I, for one, consider that policy profoundly misguided, and I'm sure that I'm not the only American who feels that way. At universities, we normally have an opportunity to debate issues like that, allowing professors like me and students to take issue publicly with our government's policy. Hanban, for obvious reasons, wants no such discussion to occur.

What that particular attached string means in practice is that Confucius Institutes will hardly ever provide funding for events relating to Taiwan. It also means that other academic units at Hanban-affiliated universities will not likely fund them either. Once the perks from Hanban begin to arrive, professors at universities with CIs become extremely reluctant to do anything to upset their generous benefactors.

But it's not just Taiwan that receives special treatment. Two other "T" words are anathema to Beijing, and hence to Hanban: Tibet and Tiananmen. Don't expect any universities with CIs to arrange a visit of the Dalai Lama anytime soon or to schedule a symposium on the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. In Canada last year, during riots in Tibet, the head of a Confucius Institute at the University of Waterloo succeeded in reversing the direction of coverage and getting a major Canadian television station to apologize for its previous pro-rebel coverage.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


Nathan W. Novak (李漢聲) said...


This topic is of particular interest recently due to concerns in the United States discussed recently; see

I didn't catch if you mentioned that the Confucius Institutes are supervised by the PRC's ecuation ministry.

richard said...

1. the article posted by Nathan Novak reminds me of what is happening in Europe with the Muslim communities. many of those immigrants come from their own strictly religious countries and use the possibilities given by the Western societies to criticize them, impose their own views, do not integrate, etc.
They are allowed to build mosques, be vocal about their religious views - something,that Westerners could never do in many those countries.
a friend of mine, who is very familiar with those issues claims, that the final goal of the leaders of those communities is to slowly influence the local politics, when possible take over the power and establish Muslim states in Europe.

2. i found your comment from the discussion with the European scholars highly interesting, scary thing ...

Anonymous said...

The whole thing is ludicrous!

Confucius centers are of course "propaganda" in the more neutral meaning of the word, trying to project a positive image of the PRC abroad. BUT, the idea that they somehow brainwashed people into mindless pro-China protesters is just idiotic. Tinfoil hats at eleven!

About the information gathering thing, I am sure China had and still has much better means/informants/organizations for that purpose.

I said it once and I say it again. The PRC is not the devil, demonizing it won't help Taiwan's cause, which I believe is just.

Anonymous said...

which EU university kicked out a Confucian institute? Seems like it's slander.

Michael Turton said...

BUT, the idea that they somehow brainwashed people into mindless pro-China protesters is just idiotic. Tinfoil hats at eleven!

No one said that. I have no idea how you got that out of what I wrote.

About the information gathering thing, I am sure China had and still has much better means/informants/organizations for that purpose.

Yes, it has many different intelligence gathering operations.

Recognizing the addition role of the Confucius Institutes is not "demonizing" China.

This article from the Chron of Higher Ed is online:

Anonymous said...

Micheal, not you but the article you quoted, the part about pro-China demonstrators wearing confucius center T-shirts, etc.

I read some scholarship on the centers, but am hardly an expert on them. However, it seems like different fractions in the CCP and academia are hardly unified in their opinions about them and their importance for the PRC.

Ed said...

My experience is definitely that the people who are studying are brainwashed in some form. Having a simple discussion on anything remotely close to Chinese politics is hard. Oh yeah, that's just the way you become growing up in China. Regardless, having studied at Stockholm University, I must say that this is scary stuff.

SoCalExpat said...

Yes, the Confucius Institute is PRC propaganda, but Taiwan is trying to get in on the game too. This year, Taiwan's OCAC will open two "Taiwan Academies" in Houston and L.A. to promote traditional Chinese characters and Taiwanese language, culture, and traditions. Of course, there are over 600 CIs and there will only be 2 TAs but this has to do with Taiwan being hopelessly outgunned financially by the PRC, not for lack of Taiwanese desire to spread pro-Taiwan propaganda.

Anonymous said...

From - MichaelF. in Cupertino CA.
After a recent experience in a Mandarin 1 class at De Anza College I know there are instructors that bring and use propaganda in their language classes. This is NOT a Tinfoil situation. I personally know 4 Mandarin instructors from three colleges in the San Francisco area. Two are Weishenren, one Hakka/Aboriginee and one immigrated to the US 30 years ago from Hainan province. One instructor (I'll let you guess which one)on the first day of class made a point out of discussing how Taiwan and China are the same and distributed a map of East Asia of which the disputed islands both to the north and south of Taiwan were included as part of China. This is but a small sample of her topics on the first day of class. She also in several class meetings pointed out how the students in the class who's parents are from Taiwan pronounce many words (such as 是)wrong. During one class setting she spent 20 minutes berating a 17 y/o High School AP student who said that he was Taiwanese. In front of all the students she questioned him twice as to whether he was Chinese and she pointedly asked him who told him to say he was Taiwanese. (He was humiliated) She told the class that there are people who want Taiwan independence, described them as criminal and stated that all Chinese need to be as one to repair all the fighting of the past. Mind you this was in a Mandarin 1 class full of 18 and 19 year old kids who don't know the different between Tasmania, Thailand or Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

It would be helpful if those European academics you mentioned would write about this somewhere. Heck, they're already banned, so why not? I have just written to my alma mater, Penn State, urging them to end their relationship with CI. Sadly, few academics outside of Canada are willing to say something (