Last year, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte made an announcement to great fanfare: The university would soon open a branch of the Confucius Institute, the Chinese government-funded educational institutions that teach Chinese language, culture and history.
Who knows if the “culture” lessons will include: blowing up churches, beating & harrassing & arresting Christians, running over peaceful protesters with tanks, and killing babies when mamas have “one too many” above the government-set quota. * I wonder if they’ll get into the whole government-sanctioned mass starvation thing, or Mao’s bloody purges?* But, I digress:
[…] The Confucius Institute would “help students be better equipped to succeed in an increasingly globalized world,” says Nancy Gutierrez, UNC Charlotte’s dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and “broaden the University’s outreach and support for language instruction and cultural opportunities in the Charlotte community,” according to a press release.
But the Confucius Institutes’ goals are a little less wholesome and edifying than they sound—and this is by the Chinese government’s own account. A 2011 speech by a standing member of the Politburo in Beijing laid out the case: “The Confucius Institute is an appealing brand for expanding our culture abroad,” Li Changchun said. “It has made an important contribution toward improving our soft power. The ‘Confucius’ brand has a natural attractiveness. Using the excuse of teaching Chinese language, everything looks reasonable and logical.” […]
I wish we could get a little appreciation for American history and culture on college campuses.
Oh, did everyone catch the “government-run” adjective slapped in front of this “Institute”?
[…] Li, it now seems, was right to exult. More than a decade after they were created, Confucius Institutes have sprouted up at more than 500 college campuses worldwide, with more than 100 of them in the United States—including at The George Washington University, the University of Michigan and the University of Iowa. Overseen by a branch of the Chinese Ministry of Education known colloquially as Hanban, the institutes are part of a broader propaganda initiative that the Chinese government is pumping an estimated $10 billion into annually, and they have only been bolstered by growing interest in China among American college students.
Yet along with their growth have come consistent questions about whether the institutes belong on campuses that profess to promote free inquiry. Confucius Institutes teach a very particular, Beijing-approved version of Chinese culture and history: one that ignores concerns over human rights, for example, and teaches that Taiwan and Tibet indisputably belong to Mainland China. Take it from the aforementioned Li, who also said in 2009 that Confucius Institutes are an “important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up.” Critics also charge that the centers have led to a climate of self-censorship on campuses that play host to them.
Despite years of these critiques—including a recent outcry at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and the shuttering of Confucius Institutes at two of the nation’s top research universities—they’re still growing in number in the United States, albeit at a slower clip than a few years ago. Several opened on American campuses last year. And vanishingly few schools have rethought the institutes and closed them, suggesting that once they’re implanted, they’re entrenched. At several campuses, they’re actually expanding their footprints with bigger facilities and new courses. I contacted more than a half-dozen Confucius Institutes, and several officials said in interviews that they’re not looking back. (Others declined to comment or simply ignored me, further suggesting a commitment to keeping the Institutes going. The Chinese Embassy in Washington also did not respond to a request to comment by publication time.)
That so many universities have welcomed the Confucius Institute with open arms points to another disturbing trend in American higher education: an alarming willingness to accept money at the expense of principles that universities are ostensibly devoted to upholding. At a time when universities are as willing as ever to shield their charges from controversial viewpoints, some nonetheless welcome foreign, communist propaganda—if the price is right. […]
For what it’s worth, US Senator Ted Cruz has helped put the kibosh on Chinese government investment in a similar scheme at The University of Texas.