Makeover: An Event in DC Tries to Rehabilitate the Image of Confucius Institutes


Yesterday the Confucius Institute US Center sponsored an event at the National Press Club on the “future of educational exchanges between China and the U.S.” The panelists offered a reassuring picture of the role played by Confucius Institutes on American college and university campuses, and predicted an even more uplifting future, with Confucius Institutes playing a key role in introducing American students to Chinese language and culture.

The panel is in line with a plan the Chinese government announced in January to “reform” the image of Confucius Institutes. The Hanban, the agency of the Chinese government tasked with overseeing Confucius Institutes, revealed then that it intended to address the growing criticism of Confucius Institutes by improving their image and retooling them to “better serve Chinese diplomacy,” according to the Global Times

The National Association of Scholars has called for colleges and universities to close their Confucius Institutes, citing extensive evidence that Confucius Institutes undermine academic freedom, present students with a one-sided view of China, and entangle colleges and universities in a web of financial relationships that leave them dependent on China. Our report, Outsourced to China, remains a comprehensive look at the way the Chinese government works to coopt American colleges and universities. We also note that the FBI and multiple members of Congress are also concerned that in addition to undermining academic freedom, Confucius Institutes may jeopardize national security.

We are preparing a fuller response to yesterday’s event, including a detailed breakdown of misleading statements that minimize the real risks Confucius Institutes pose to the integrity of American higher education. In the meantime we reiterate our concern that the Chinese government is engaged in inappropriate activity in American higher education. Colleges should not fall for the beguiling rhetoric the Confucius Institute US Center employs.


Image Credit: Vincent Poulissen

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