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Confucius Institute

Confucius Institute
Confucius Institute logo
Founded 2004
Type Educational Organization
Focus Chinese culture, Chinese language
Area served
Method Education
Owner The Office of Chinese Language Council International (also known as "Hanban")
Confucius Institute
Traditional Chinese 孔子學院
Simplified Chinese 孔子学院
A Confucius Institute in Canada

Confucius Institute (Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China,[1] whose aim is to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching internationally, and facilitate cultural exchanges.[2][3]

The Confucius Institute is sometimes compared to language and culture promotion organizations such as Britain's industrial espionage,[4] and concerns that the institutes present a selective and politicized view of China as a means of advancing the country's soft power internationally.[1][5]

The Confucius Institute program began in 2004 and is overseen by Hanban (officially the Office of Chinese Language Council International). The program is governed by a council whose top-level members are drawn from the Communist Party of China leadership and various state ministries.[1][6] The institutes operate in co-operation with local affiliate colleges and universities around the world, and financing is shared between Hanban and the host institutions. The related Confucius Classroom program partners with local secondary schools or school districts to provide teachers and instructional materials.[7][8]


  • History 1
  • Name 2
  • Purpose 3
    • Political goals 3.1
  • Organization 4
    • Hiring policies 4.1
  • Curriculum 5
  • Reception 6
  • Responses to management decisions by Chief Executive Xu Lin 7
    • Accusations of censorship 7.1
    • Non-renewal of contract to host the CI 7.2
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


The first Confucius Institute opened on 21 November 2004 in Seoul, South Korea, after establishing a pilot institute in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in June 2004. Hundreds more have opened since in dozens of countries around the world, with the highest concentration of Institutes in the United States, Japan, and South Korea.[9] In April 2007, the first research-based Confucius Institute opened in Waseda University in Japan. In partnership with Peking University, the program promotes research activities of graduate students studying Chinese.[10] As of 2014, there were over 480 Confucius Institutes in dozens of countries in six continents.[11][12] The Ministry of Education estimates that 100 million people overseas may be learning Chinese by 2010 and the program is expanding rapidly in order to keep up.[13] Hanban aims to establish 1,000 Confucius Institutes by 2020.[14] The rapid expansion of Confucius Institutes has led to a backlash, especially in the United States and other Western countries.


Confucius Institute is named after the noted Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 BC). Throughout the 20th century, Communist Party of China (CPC) leaders criticized and denounced Confucius as the personification of China's "feudal" traditions, with anti-Confucianism ranging from the 1912 New Culture Movement to the 1973 Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius campaign during the Cultural Revolution.[15] However, in recent decades, interest in pre-modern Chinese culture has grown in the country, and Confucius in particular has seen a resurgence in popularity.[16] Outside of China, Confucius is a universally recognizable symbol of Chinese culture, free from the controversies surrounding other prominent Chinese figures such as Mao Zedong.[17] Kerry Brown, Professor of Chinese Politics at the University of Sydney, notes the irony that the CPC now lionizing Confucius had vilified him just four decades previously for his association with patriarchal, hierarchical, and conservative values.[18]

"Confucius Institute" is a trademarked [19] A 2011 crackdown protected "Confucius Institute" from preregistration infringement in Costa Rica.[20]

A China Post article reported in 2014 that "Certainly, China would have made little headway if it had named these Mao Institutes, or even Deng Xiaoping Institutes. But by borrowing the name Confucius, it created a brand that was instantly recognized as a symbol of Chinese culture, radically different from the image of the Communist Party.[21]


Confucius Institutes (CIs) promote and teach Chinese culture and language around the world. CIs develop Chinese language courses, train teachers, hold the HSK Examination (Chinese proficiency test), and provide information about contemporary China.[22] The director of the CI program, Xu Lin, stated that CIs were started to cater to the sudden uptick in interest of the Chinese language around the world. They also provide Chinese language teaching staff from Mainland China. As of 2011, there were 200 such teachers working in the United States.[23]

Political goals

Confucius Institute also has non-academic goals. Li Changchun, the 5th-highest-ranking member of the Politburo Standing Committee, was quoted in The Economist saying that the Confucius Institutes were "an important part of China's overseas propaganda set-up". The statement has been seized upon by critics as evidence of a politicized mission.[24] Many foreign scholars have characterized the CI program as an exercise in soft power, expanding China's economic, cultural, and diplomatic reach through the promotion of Chinese language and culture,[25][26] while others have suggested a possible role in intelligence collection.[6][27] The soft power goals also include assuaging concerns of a "China threat" in the context of the country's increasingly powerful economy and military.[28][29]

While Chinese authorities have been cautious not to have CIs act as direct promoters of the party’s political viewpoints, while a few suggests that the Confucius Institutes function in this way, officials say that one important goal of the Institutes is to influence other countries' view of China.[30] According to Peng Ming-min, a Taiwan independence activist and politician, he claims that colleges and universities where a Confucius Institute is established have to sign a contract in which they declare their support for Beijing’s "One China" policy. As a result, both Taiwan and Tibet become taboos at the institutes.[31] However, this claim is in dispute. Michael Nylan, professor of Chinese history at the University of California at Berkeley, stated that CIs have become less heavy-handed in their demands, and have learnt from "early missteps", such as insisting that universities adopt a policy that Taiwan is part of China. Nylan's survey of faculty and administrators at fifteen universities with Confucius Institutes revealed two reports that institutes had exerted pressure to block guest speakers, but both events went ahead anyway.[32]

The CI's soft power goals are seen as an attempt by the PRC to modernize away from Soviet influenced propaganda of the Maoist era.[33] Other initiatives include Chinese contemporary art exhibitions, television programs, concerts by popular singers, translations of Chinese literature, and the expansion of state-run news channels such as Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television.[34]


  • Confucius Institute Online (English) (Chinese)
  • China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (Chinese)
  • List of Confucius Institutes around the world
  • Pella, John & Erik Ringmar, "Kongzi and his institutes," History of International Relations Open Textbook Project, Cambridge: Open Book, forthcoming.
  • Sahlins on Confucius Institutes, four-part lecture by Marshall Sahlins, PricklyParadigmTV, YouTube.
  • Confucius institute: The hard side of China's soft power, Xu Lin interview, BBC News, 21 December 2014.

External links

  1. ^ a b c d Sahlins, Marshall (October 29, 2013). "China U.". The Nation. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Penn, Brierley. "China Business:A broader education". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Mattis, Peter (August 2, 2012). "Reexamining the Confucian Institutes". The Diplomat. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  4. ^ 'Has BCIT sold out to Chinese propaganda?', The Vancouver Sun, 2 April 2008.
  5. ^ The Economist, China's Confucius Institutes: Rectification of Statues, 20 Jan 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Fabrice De Pierrebourg and Michel Juneau-Katsuya, “Nest of Spies: the starting truth about foreign agents at work within Canada’s borders,” HarperCollins Canada, 2009. pp 160 – 162
  7. ^ "Introduction to the Confucius Institutes". Retrieved 2 July 2011. 
  8. ^ Jianguo Chen, Chuang Wang, Jinfa Cai (2010). Teaching and learning Chinese: issues and perspectives. IAP. pp. xix. 
  9. ^ Simon, Tay (2010). Asia Alone: The Dangerous Post-Crisis Divide from America. John Wiley and Sons. p. 42. 
  10. ^ "Signing of Waseda University Confucius Institute Agreement Established as the first Research Confucius Institute in collaboration with Peking University". Waseda University. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  11. ^ "Confucius Institutes Worldwide". UCLA Confucious Institute. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ China to host second Confucius Institute Conference, Xinhua, 6 December 2007.
  14. ^ Confucius Institute: promoting language, culture and friendliness, Xinhua, 2 October 2006.
  15. ^ Starr (2009), p. 68.
  16. ^ Melvin, Sheila (29 August 2007). "Yu Dan and China's Return to Confucius". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 July 2011. 
  17. ^ "China’s Confucius Institutes Rectification of statues". The Economist. 20 January 2011. Retrieved 2 July 2011. 
  18. ^ Kerry Brown, The case for eliminating Confucius from China's Confucius Institutes, South China Morning Post, 2 June 2014.
  19. ^ Starr (2009), p. 69.
  20. ^ Zhou Wenting, Trademark infringement continues despite crackdown, China Daily 29 July 2011.
  21. ^ a b c World should watch for Confucius, The China Post, 01 October 2014
  22. ^ "About Us". Confucius Institute Online. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  23. ^ Linda Tsung and Ken Cruickshank (2011). Teaching and Learning Chinese in Global Contexts. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 151. 
  24. ^ A message from Confucius; New ways of projecting soft power,, 22 Oct 2009.
  25. ^ Peter Schmidt (2010b), At U.S. Colleges, Chinese-Financed Centers Prompt Worries About Academic Freedom, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 17 September 2010.
  26. ^ Jae Park(2013),Cultural artifact, ideology export or soft power? Confucius Institute in Peru, International Studies in Sociology of Education, 23(1), 1-16.
  27. ^ a b Janet Steffenhagen, 'Has BCIT sold out to Chinese propaganda?', Vancouver Sun, 2 April 2008.
  28. ^ French, Howard W. (11 January 2006). "Another Chinese Export is All the Rage: China's Language". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  29. ^ Xiaolin Guo (2008), Repackaging Confucius, Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm, Sweden, July 2008.
  30. ^ a b The Economist, China’s Confucius Institutes: Rectification of statues, "Asia Banyan", January 20, 2011.
  31. ^ Peng Ming-min 彭明敏 (2011), China picks pockets of academics worldwide, Taipei Times Tue, May 31, 2011, p. 8.
  32. ^ Golden (2011).
  33. ^ Brady, Anne-Marie (2011). China's Thought Management. London & New York: Routledge. p. 81.  
  34. ^ James F. Paradise (2009), China and International Harmony: The Role of Confucius Institutes in Bolstering Beijing's Soft Power, Asian Survey 49.4: 648–649.
  35. ^ Sun Shangwu, Zhao Huanxin and Tang Yue (2013-09-13). "Hanban offers a wider choice". China Daily. ...Hanban, the nonprofit agency that administers Confucius Institutes worldwide. 
  36. ^ "Steven Knapp Named to Council of the Confucius Institute Headquarters". June 3, 2013. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  37. ^ "Constitution and By-Laws of the Confucius Institutes". Hanban. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  38. ^ "VP calls for development of Confucius Institute". Xinhua. 2013-12-07. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  40. ^ "Leadership". Hanban. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  41. ^ "Confucius Institute Headquarters". Hanban. Retrieved 21 April 2014. 
  42. ^ a b "A message from Confucius: New ways of projecting soft power". The Economist. 22 October 2009. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  43. ^ "Regulations for the Administration of Confucius Institute Headquarters Funds". Hanban-News. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  44. ^ a b Schimdt (2010b).
  45. ^ "Confucius Institute at Talinn University". Talinn University. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  46. ^ "Board of Directors". University of Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 3 July 2011. "Governing and Advisory Boards". Regents of the University of Minnesota. Retrieved 3 July 2011. "Our Board". Confucius Institute at the University of New South Whales. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  47. ^ Hanban, ‘Overseas Volunteer Chinese Teacher Program’, accessed 16 Sept 2011.
  48. ^ Macleans, Confucius Institutes break human rights rules:Profs working in Canada 'must have no record of Falun Gong'", 10 August 2011.
  49. ^ a b Matthew Robertson, US Universities, Confucius Institutes Import Discrimination”, The Epoch Times, 24 Aug 2011.
  50. ^ McMaster closing Confucius Institute over hiring issues , The Globe and Mail, 07 Feb 2013.
  51. ^ a b "China U: Confucius Institutes censor political discussions and restrain the free exchange of ideas. Why, then, do American universities sponsor them?" By Marshall Sahlins. The Nation, November 18, 2013
  52. ^ Beijing uses Confucius to lead charm offensive. By Geoffrey York, The Globe and Mail, 9 September 2005. Quoted by Sheng Ding and Robert A. Saunders (2006), "Talking up China: An analysis of China’s rising cultural power and global promotion of the Chinese language," East Asia, 23.2, p. 21.
  53. ^ Soft Power Smackdown! Confucius Institute vs. Taiwan Academy, The Wall Street Journal 12 August 2011.
  54. ^ The language of Chinese soft power in the US. Will Watcher, Asia Times.
  55. ^ Don Starr (2009), Chinese Language Education in Europe: the Confucius Institutes, European Journal of Education Volume 44, Issue 1, pages 78–79.
  56. ^ Geoff Maslen (2007), Warning – be wary of Confucius institutes University World News, 2 December 2007.
  57. ^ Profs worry China preparing to spy on students,, 27 April 2011.
  58. ^ Starr (2009), p. 6.
  59. ^ "i Kina är tio miljoner barn utan en ordentlig skola" Riksdagens snabbprotokoll 2007/08:46 (in Swedish)
  60. ^ Peter Schmidt (2010a), U. of Chicago's Plans for Milton Friedman Institute Stir Outrage on the Faculty, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 1 June 2010.
  61. ^ Japanese university apologizes for calling Confucius Institute spy agency, People's Daily, 12 June 2010.
  62. ^ James Bradshaw and Colin Freeze, McMaster closing Confucius Institute over hiring issues, The Globe and Mail, 7 February 2013.
  63. ^ Caroline Alphonso and Karen Howlett, Toronto school board seeks end to China deal, The Globe and Mail, 17 July 2014.
  64. ^ a b c d Chicago to Close Confucius Institute, Inside Higher Ed, 26 September 2014
  65. ^ Confucius Institute update, Penn State College of Liberal Arts, 01 October 2014.
  66. ^ Toronto schools reject tie-up with China’s Confucius Institute, South China Morning Post, 30 October 2014.
  67. ^ Stockholm University terminating its Confucius Institute
  68. ^  
  69. ^ Ulara Nakagawa. Confucius Controversy, The Diplomat.
  70. ^ D. D. Guttenplan (2012), Critics Worry About Influence of Chinese Institutes on U.S. Campuses, New York Times, March 4, 2012.
  71. ^ Rejecting Confucius Funding Inside Higher Ed, April 29, 2014. By Elizabeth Redden
  72. ^ "Statement on the Confucius Institute at the University of Chicago". UChicago News. University of Chicago. September 25, 2014. Retrieved September 25, 2014. 
  73. ^ Universities and colleges urged to end ties with Confucius Institutes" Canadian Association of University Teachers, December 17, 2013
  74. ^ "Our Partnerships with Foreign Governments: The Case of Confucius Institutes". American Association of University Professors. June 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-21. 
  75. ^ US professors urge Western universities to end ties to China's Confucius Institutes By Peter Foster, Washington. The Telegraph (London), 18 Jun 2014.
  76. ^ AAUP Rebukes Colleges for Chinese Institutes, and Censures Northeastern Ill Peter Schmidt, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 15 June 2014
  77. ^ US Professors Troubled by Confucius Institutes Carolyn Thompson. 24 June 2014.
  78. ^ The price of Confucius Institutes Washington Post, Editorial Board June 21, 2014
  79. ^ Redden, Elizabeth. "Chicago to Close Confucius Institute".  
  80. ^ a b China's Soft-Power Fail, Bloomberg View, 07 October 2014.
  81. ^ a b Beijing's Propaganda Lessons: Confucius Institute officials are agents of Chinese censorship, The Wall Street Journal, 7 August 2014.
  82. ^ Hard times for China's soft power, Business Spectator, 29 September 2014.
  83. ^ Belkin, Douglas (1 October 2014). "Penn State Latest School to Drop China's Confucius Institute". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  84. ^ Subcommittee Hearing: Is Academic Freedom Threatened by China's Influence on U.S. Universities?, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 4 December 2014.
  85. ^ China's influence threatens American universities, experts say, Los Angeles Times, 4 December 2014.
  86. ^ China Says It’s 'Never Interfered With U.S. Academic Freedom', Chinarealtime, Wall Street Journal, 5 December 2014.
  87. ^ Peter Cai, China fails the soft-power test, Business Spectator, 6 August 2014.
  88. ^ China hurts Taiwan's feelings at academic conference in Portugal, "Pakistan Defence" website, 4 August 2014
  89. ^ Beijing's Propaganda Lessons: Confucius Institute officials are agents of Chinese censorship", The Wall Street Journal", 7 August 2014.
  90. ^ The Diplomat The Undoing of China's Soft Power, "The Diplomat", 8 August 2014.
  91. ^ Shih Hsiu-chuan, EACS to protest Hanban’s academic meddling: source, Taipei Times, 31 July 2014.
  92. ^ China's obstruction at conference hurts cross-strait ties: Taiwan, Focus Taiwan News Channel, 28 July 2014.
  93. ^ Roger Greatrex, Report: The Deletion of Pages from EACS Conference materials in Braga (July 2014), European Association for Chinese Studies, 1 August 2014.
  94. ^ Roger Greatrex, Letter of Protest at Interference in EACS Conference in Portugal, July 2014, European Association for Chinese Studies, 1 August 2014.
  95. ^ 20th Biennial Conference EACS Program, original version with the censored frontispiece and pages 15/16, 19/20, and 59/60.
  96. ^ European Association for Chinese Studies Offers Formal Apologies to Us, National Policy Foundation, 29 July 2014.
  97. ^ Shih Hsiu-chuan, Foundation angry over EACS brochures, Taipei times, 29 July 2014.
  98. ^ Elizabeth Redden, Confucius Controversies, Inside Higher Ed, 24 July 2014.
  99. ^ Elizabeth Redden, Accounts of Confucius Institute-ordered censorship at Chinese studies conference, Inside Higher Ed, 6 August 2014.
  100. ^ Robert Marquand, Academic flap turns up heat on China's Confucius Institutes, The Christian Science Monitor, 22 August 2014.
  101. ^ Statement on the Confucius Institute at the University of Chicago 25 September 2014
  102. ^ 文化的困境, 在于不知不觉, Jiefang Daily, 19 September 2014
  103. ^ Xu Lin interview
  104. ^ Confucius Institutes About-Face, The Economist, 26 September 2014
  105. ^ Wall Street Journal: University of Chicago Cuts Ties With Chinese Academic Center, Wall Street Journal, 27 September 2014
  106. ^ The Future of China's Confucius Institutes, The Diplomat, 30 September 2014
  107. ^ Rejecting Confucius Institutes not helpful to understand China, Peoples' Daily, 28 September 2014
  108. ^ China: When to Say Nothing, Public Diplomacy and International Communications, 20 August 2014.
  109. ^ Hard times for China's soft power, Business Spectator, 29 September 2014.


See also

Xu's PR scandals occurred during the Hanban's international celebrations for the 10th anniversary of Confucius Institutes. Commenting on both the Chicago closure and the "sinister" EACS Braga incident, Gary Rawnsley, Professor of Public Diplomacy at Aberystwyth University, wrote, "Xu Lin could not have picked a worse time to assert her imaginary authority".[108] The Australian Business Spectator, describing the EACS incident as "highly damaging" for China's international image, said, "Xu’s hardline behavior highlights one of the biggest problems for Beijing’s charm offensive. It still relies on officials like Xu, who still think and act like party ideologues who like to assert their authority and bully people into submission... Xu Lin has been a publicity disaster."[109]

In response to the UChicago CI closure, the official Chinese People's Daily published "Rejecting Confucius Institutes not helpful to understand China" on 28 September 2014, but with two factual errors. First, closing the Confucius Institute does not mean "Chinese language study in the university would cease soon"; it means the university's Center for East Asian Studies will resume teaching Chinese. Second, without reference either to UChicago's statement, which specifically blamed Xu Lin's remarks, nor to the widespread media coverage of her Jiefang Daily interview, People's Daily said, "Though the university did not detail the reasons behind the suspension, many believed it was linked to the American Association of University Professors' boycott of CI."[107]

On 25 September 2014, the University of Chicago stated that it had suspended negotiations to renew its CI contract because "recently published comments about UChicago in an article about the director-general of Hanban are incompatible with a continued equal partnership."[101] This indirectly referred to Xu Lin's interview with the Jiefang Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party in Shanghai, published on 19 September 2014,[102][103] in which she claimed to have intimidated the president of the University of Chicago "with a single sentence", after 100 professors signed a petition to ban the Confucius Institute. Inside Higher Ed reported: "Xu Lin wrote a letter to Chicago's president and called the university representative in Beijing (where Chicago has a research center), with only one line: 'If your school decides to withdraw, I will agree to it.' Her attitude made the other side anxious. The school quickly responded that it will continue to properly manage the Confucius Institute." [64] Other media reports said Xu's comments were a "demeaning depiction" that "brought panic" to the university, which convinced them that an equal partnership was impossible;[21] "could be construed as a boastful challenge";[104] "implied the school had kowtowed to the Chinese government";[105] or caused UChicago administrators to become "anxious" at the thought of shutting down the CI.[106]

Non-renewal of contract to host the CI

Marshall Sahlins explained that the EACS censorship brings to light the Hanban's seriousness in enforcing its contractual provisions "the way they do in China which is not so much by going to court ... but simply by fiat".[98][99] The Christian Science Monitor said that the Hanban/CI censorship has made more American, European, and Australian academics grow uneasy with CIs, and reported that when Ms. Xu met privately with foreign scholars in Shanghai, who asked specifically about the missing pages, "she denied ordering them censored."[100]

On the morning of 24 July, the remaining 300 conference participants received their materials, which were now missing four printed pages: the frontispiece mentioning CCSP sponsorship in the conference abstract, and three pages from the conference program. These expurgated pages contained information of the book exhibition and library donation organized by the Taiwan National Central Library, and the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange.[95] The director of the National Central Library stated that EACS officials and members had spoken out against Xu during the opening ceremony.[96][97]

Conference registration began on 22 July 2014, and about 100 participants received complete copies of the abstracts and program, which comprised 89 pages, including the cover and front matter. However, after Xu Lin, who was a keynote speaker, arrived that evening, she proclaimed that any mention of the Confucius China Studies Program (CCSP) sponsorship be removed from the Conference Abstracts, and ordered her entourage from Confucius Institute Headquarters to remove all conference materials and take them to the apartment of a local CI teacher. When the remaining 300 participants arrived for conference registration on 23 July, they did not receive the printed abstracts or programs but only a brief summarized schedule. After last-minute negotiations between Xu Lin and conference organizers to ensure conference members received the program, a compromise was made to allow the removal of one abstract page that mentioned the CCSP support of the conference.

On 22 July 2014, the evening before the start of the European Association of Chinese Studies (EACS) conference in [94]

Accusations of censorship

Xu Lin, the Director-General (zhǔrèn 主任) of the Hanban and Chief Executive (zǒnggànshi 总干事) of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, caused two international scandals in 2014. In July, she ordered her staff to rip pages referring to Taiwanese academic institutions from the published program for the European Association for Chinese Studies conference in Portugal, claiming the materials were "contrary to Chinese regulations",[80] which the Wall Street Journal described as the "bullying approach to academic freedom".[81] In September, the University of Chicago closed their CI, blaming Xu's comments that her threatening letter and phone call forced the university to continue hosting the institute.[64]

Responses to management decisions by Chief Executive Xu Lin

On 4 December 2014, the [84] Chairman Chris Smith said, "U.S. colleges and universities should not be outsourcing academic control, faculty and student oversight or curriculum to a foreign government", and called for a GAO study into agreements between American universities and China.[85] On 5 December 2014, PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying denied the House testimony and said "We have assisted with supplying teachers and textbooks at the request of the U.S. side but have never interfered with academic freedom."[86]

On 1 October 2014, less than a week after the University of Chicago CI closure, Pennsylvania State University also cut ties with the Confucius Institute after coming to the conclusion that "its objectives were not in line with the Institute's".[83]

Xu Lin, Director-General of the Hanban and Chief Executive of the CIs worldwide, caused two damaging scandals in 2014. In August, Xu ordered her staff to rip pages referring to Taiwanese academic institutions from the published program for the European Association for Chinese Studies conference in Portugal, claiming the materials were "contrary to Chinese regulations".[80] The Wall Street Journal described Xu's attempted censorship as the "bullying approach to academic freedom".[81] In September, the University of Chicago closed their CI, blaming Xu's comments that her threatening letter and phone call forced the university to continue hosting the institute.[64] The Business Spectator concludes that the Xu Lin's hardline behavior highlights one of the biggest problems for Beijing’s charm offensive. "It still relies on officials like Xu, who still think and act like party ideologues who like to assert their authority and bully people into submission."[82]

The University of Chicago cut ties with the Confucius Institute after pressure from faculty members and the appearance of an unflattering article in Jiefang Daily, effective on 29 September 2014.[79]

In June 2014, the American Association of University Professors issued a statement urging American universities to cease their collaboration with the Confucius Institute unless the universities can have unilateral control of the academia affairs, that the teachers in Confucius Institutes can have the same academic freedom enjoyed by other university faculty members, and that the agreements between universities and Confucius Institutes are available to the community.[74] The AAUP statement was widely noticed by US media and prompted extensive further debate in the US.[75][76][77][78]

In December 2013, the Canadian Association of University Teachers urged Canadian universities and colleges to end ties with the Confucius Institute.[73]

In October 2013, University of Chicago professor Marshall Sahlins published an extensive investigative article criticizing the Confucius Institutes and the universities hosting them.[51] Later, more than 100 faculty members signed a protest against the Confucius Institute at the University of Chicago.[71] In September 2014, the University of Chicago suspended its negotiation for renewal of the agreement with Hanban.[72]

Underlying such opposition is concern by professors that a Confucius Institute would interfere with academic freedom and be able to pressure the university to censor speech on topics the Communist Party of China objects to.[68] An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education writes that here is little evidence of meddling from China although the same article did go on to say the Institutes were "distinct in the degree to which they were financed and managed by a foreign government."[44] After interviewing China scholars, journalists and CI directors, a writer for The Diplomat also found little support for the concern that CIs would serve as propaganda vehicles, though some of her sources did note that they would face constraints in their curriculum on matters such as Tibet and human rights.[69] A New York Times article quotes Arthur Waldron, a professor of international relations at the University of Pennsylvania, that the key issue is academic independence. "Once you have a Confucius Institute on campus, you have a second source of opinions and authority that is ultimately answerable to the Chinese Communist Party and which is not subject to scholarly review."[70]

In December 2014, Stockholm University, the first university in Europe to host a Confucius Institute, announced it was terminating the program. Press coverage of the Braga incident in the Swedish press was said to have influenced the decision. "Generally it is questionable to have, within the framework of the university, institutes that are financed by another country," said the university's chancellor.[67]

In the short time-frame of their rapid expansion, the Institutes have been the subject of much controversy. Criticisms of the Institutes have included practical concerns about finance, academic viability, legal issues, and relations with the Chinese partner university, as well as ideological concerns about improper influence over teaching and research, industrial and military espionage,[6][27] surveillance of Chinese abroad, and undermining Taiwanese influence.[55] There has also been organized opposition to the establishment of a Confucius Institute at University of Melbourne,[56] University of Manitoba,[57] Stockholm University,[58][59] University of Chicago[60] and many others. More significantly, some universities that hosted Confucius Institutes decided to terminate their contracts. These include Japan's Osaka Sangyo University in 2010;[61] Canada's McMaster University and Université de Sherbrooke,[62][63] and France's University of Lyon in 2013;[21] and the University of Chicago, Pennsylvania State University, and the Toronto District School Board in 2014.[64][65][66]


In response to claims that the curriculum at CIs is determined by political consideration, the CI director for the Chicago Public Schools said that "Confucius Institutes have total autonomy in their course materials and teachers."[54]

In 2011, in response to the spread of Confucius Institutes, the Republic of China announced plans to establish the Taiwan Academy in America, Europe, and Asia as part of its own cultural diplomacy. Taiwan's program is designed to promote "Taiwanese-flavored" Mandarin, traditional Chinese characters, and Taiwanese topics.[53]

The curriculum of Confucius Institutes revolves around the institute's role as a language center.[30] Confucius Institutes teach simplified Chinese characters, which are standard in Mainland China, rather than the traditional Chinese characters used in Taiwan and Hong Kong. University of Chicago professor emeritus Marshall Sahlins warns that CIs' exclusively teaching simplified characters denies students access to the "traditional characters in which everything was written in China for thousands of years, and in which much that is not to the liking of the regime continues to be written in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the many other Chinese communities beyond Beijing's direct control."[51] Canada's Globe and Mail claims that instruction solely in simplified characters "would help to advance Beijing's goal of marginalizing Taiwan in the battle for global influence".[52]


In 2013, the McMaster University in Canada closed its Confucius Institute due to hiring issues over Falun Gong.[50]

Human rights lawyer Clive Ansley has argued that the part of the hiring policy that discriminates against Falun Gong believers is in contravention of anti-discrimination laws and human rights codes.[48] Bryan Edelman, a trial consultant and analyst on China's treatment of the Falun Gong, commented "I am not sure how the U.S. Courts would have jurisdiction over the hiring practices of a Chinese institution on Chinese soil hiring non-U.S. citizens.”[49] However, Marci Hamilton, Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Yeshiva University, called this policy "unethical and illegal in the free world."[49]

In many universities, the actual employer is the Chinese government, not the university itself. [47] The Hanban website stated that Chinese language instructors should be “Aged between 22 to 60, physical and mental healthy, no record of participation in

Hiring policies

In addition to their local partner university, Confucius Institutes operate in co-operation with a Chinese partner university.[45] Many Institutes are governed by a board which is composed of several members from the Chinese partner school and the remaining of the members affiliated with the local partner university.[46] At most Institutes, the director is appointed by the local partner university.[42]

The Chinese Government shares the burden of funding Confucius Institutes with host universities, and takes a hands-off approach to management.[42] The Institutes function independently within the guidelines established by Hanban and the Confucius Institute Headquarters. Each Institute is responsible for drawing up and managing their own budget, which is subject to approval by the headquarters. The Confucius Institute Headquarters provides various restrictions on how their funds may be used, including earmarking funds for specific purposes.[43] Institutes in the United States are generally provided with $100,000 annually from Hanban, with the local university required to match funding.[44]

[41][40] The council sets the agenda for the Confucius Institutes and makes changes to the bylaws while other tasks and ongoing management of the Confucius Institute Headquarters are handled by the professional executive leadership headed by the director-general.[39][1]. Other leaders of the council are similarly drawn from the Communist Party and central government agencies, such as the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, and the State Council Information Office (also known as the Office of Overseas Propaganda).United Front Work Department a Politburo member who is the former head of the [38],Liu Yandong The current chair of the Confucius Institute Headquarters council is [37] The Institutes themselves are individually managed under the leadership of their own board of directors, which should include members of the host institution.[36] officials. The Confucius Institute headquarters in Beijing establishes the guidelines which the separate Confucius Institutes worldwide follows. The headquarters is governed by a council with fifteen members, ten of whom are directors of overseas institutes.Communist Party though it is connected with the Ministry of Education and has close ties to a number of senior [35]

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