The Controversy Behind China’s Confucius Institute

Simone Gao
By Simone Gao
September 20, 2018Zooming Inshare

Narration: The Confucius Institute was established in 2004 by Hanban, which is overseen by 12 national level government bodies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Education, the State Council Information Office, and more.

Narration: There are currently over 100 Confucius Institutes on U.S. university campuses and over 500 K-12 Confucius Classrooms in the U.S.

Narration: According to “Outsourced to China,” a research paper on Confucius Institutes by the National Association of Scholars, Hanban provides operating funds and screens and pays Confucius Institutes’ Chinese teachers and staff members. Hanban also provides textbooks and approves Confucius Institute courses, which are sometimes offered for credit.

Narration: By whitewashing history and censoring content, the Confucius Institute strives to educate a generation of Americans to know little more of China than the regime’s official history.

Narration: In a 2011 speech at the Confucius Institute’s Beijing headquarters, Standing Politburo Committee member Li Changchun said: “The Confucius Institute is an appealing brand for extending our culture abroad. 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.”

Narration: Everything looks reasonable and logical to some American politicians too. At a forum on U.S.-China educational exchanges in April this year, when asked about the rising concerns over Confucius Institutes on American campuses, former member of the Congress Matt Salmon said this.

Matt Salmon: There is plenty to be concerned about with our relationship with China. But the answer is not to walk away from that relationship. The answer is not to fold up and get rid of these kinds of programs. To me, the answer is to have more of this. So that there can be more mutual understanding, more dialogue, more interaction with one another. So I believe these kinds of programs, they need proper oversight. We need to have mechanisms to ensure that they are doing what they are doing, but I believe those mechanisms are in place.

Narration: The Department of Defense granted 3 years of funding to the Confucius Institutes at the University of Arizona, Stanford, and the University of Washington. Mr. Salmon argued this is solid proof that CIs are harmless.

Matt Salmon: And again I would go back, if the DoD believed or had serious reservations that the Confucius Institute was some kind of a threat to national security, they wouldn’t have in their wildest dreams decided to provide grant funding for them to do that.

Narration: But all this changed quickly. Around the same time Mr. Salmon defended the Confucius Institute, two congressmen wrote to Texas A&M raising concerns about its Confucius Institute. Days later, the school said it would terminate its agreement. In May, Senator Marco Rubio also sent a letter to three colleges in Florida regarding their Confucius Institutes.

Sen. Marco Rubio: I think every college should be aware of what these institutes are used for and that they are in fact consistently being used as a way to quash academic freedom on campus at the behest of a foreign government. And I would encourage every college in America to close them. There’s no need for these programs.

Narration: In August, President Trump signed the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It prohibits Pentagon funding for Confucius Institutes on U.S. campuses. In the future, any universities that have Pentagon-funded and Chinese government-funded Chinese language programs will have to secure a Pentagon waiver if they want to keep both. A few days later the University of North Florida said it would close its Confucius Institute.

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