Monday, December 22, 2014

Confucius Institutes – Quo Vadis?

Representatives gather in China to discuss the future of the occasionally controversial Confucius Institutes.

By Falk Hartig

THE DIPLOMAT - December 21, 2014

Since the first institute opened ten years ago, 475 Confucius Institutes (CIs) and 851 smaller Confucius Classrooms (CCs) have been established in 126 countries. In 2014 alone, 35 CIs and 205 CCs have been opened worldwide, according to Hanban, the Chinese organization in charge of the institutes.
These numbers raise concerns outside of China about the institute’s intentions, and have prompted some to consider the future of China’s most prominent and most controversial cultural diplomacy initiative.
After the University of Chicago suspended negotiations for the renewal of the agreement for a second term of its Confucius Institute, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing on December 4 on whether academic freedom is threatened by China’s influence on U.S. universities, with the Confucius Institute receiving particular attention.
Debates about the “Confucius Institute Dilemma” of foreign universities – whether CIs are “hardly a threat to academic freedom” or whether they are “academic malware” – is nothing new and the December hearing was not the first of its kind: A 2010 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing was followed by the release of the so-called Lugar Report in February 2011, which concluded that the United States was continuing to fall farther behind China in public diplomacy. In March 2012, the United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation held a hearing on “The Price of Public Diplomacy with China,” focusing on Chinese propaganda efforts in the U.S., including Confucius Institutes.