Controversial Confucius Institutes reopening in US under new name

Confucius Institutes, the controversial Beijing-backed language and cultural learning centers — most of which were closed throughout the US after being designated as foreign mission by the State Department — are rebranding and reopening, according to a report by the National Association of Scholars.

Of the 118 Confucius Institutes that once existed in the US, 104 were closed as of June 21 and four are in the process of shutting down, according to the report, VOA reported.

Of these, “at least 28 have replaced their Confucius Institute with a similar programme, and at least 58 have maintained close relationships with their former Confucius Institute partner,” according to the report.

Perry Link, professor of Chinese language studies at the University of California Riverside, said he was shocked after reading the June 21 report, which updates a March 2018 report.

Link told VOA Mandarin that he was struck first by “how many Confucius Institutes have been shut. I didn’t expect the rate of closures to be so high. Second, they still exist in another way with another name. I think this is expected. I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon.”

The Chinese state-owned Global Times published an article in October 2021 citing the spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in Germany as saying “China firmly opposes the politicisation of academic and cultural exchange activities.”

Critics saw the institutes as an overseas propaganda machine for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as well as a tool to monitor and interfere with speeches and activities on campuses. For example, in 2009, North Carolina State University cancelled its plan to invite the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, to speak on campus after objections by the Confucius Institute.

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