Monday, December 22, 2014

Confucius institute: The hard side of China's soft power

By John Sudworth BBC News, Shanghai 

BBC - 22 December 2014

Xu Lin is an unusual kind of Chinese official.
For starters she accepted a request for a BBC interview. Admittedly she came quickly to regret it, demanding that we delete a large section of our recording.
But given that unelected Chinese officials do not need to court their own domestic media, let alone the international press, it is rare to be invited in at all. And it is even rarer to find an official who is prepared to be interviewed in English.
But Ms Xu stands out from Chinese officialdom for yet another reason.
In contrast to the caution and conformity that are hallmarks of the Communist Party system, she has found herself at the centre of a storm of controversy.
Ms Xu heads Hanban, a Chinese government-controlled agency that, on the face of it, would appear to be uncontentious. It is tasked with promoting the learning of the Chinese language overseas.
But during the 10 years that Ms Xu has been in charge, this mission has been coupled with a wider foreign policy goal - the bid to make China a cultural superpower, not just an economic one.