Oppose the closure of Confucius Institutes in Britain – No Cold War

The Confucius Institute building on the Troy University campus, Alabama, March 2018 Photo: Kreeder13/CC

By Dr Ping Hua

Since the beginning of the 21st century, as China’s economic strength has increased, its international status has improved significantly.

The peaceful rise of China, an ancient country in the east, has become the focus of attention of all countries in the world. Many governments and peoples globally are optimistic about China and becoming more interested in the country with an increasing enthusiasm for in-depth exchanges and co-operation.

As a result of China’s rise, the role of Chinese language and Chinese culture in global affairs has become unprecedentedly prominent. This has led to a global demand for learning.

The existing Chinese teaching institutions and teaching resources in China and abroad are far from being able to meet the growing demand. Under this situation, the creation of Confucius Institutes was conceived by the Ministry of Education and the National Leading Group for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (now renamed as the Confucius Institute HQ and Hanban) since 2002.

In 2004, the Confucius Institute HQ officially named the overseas language promotion organisation Confucius Institutes (CI) and established the first in November 2004 in Seoul, South Korea, after the success of a pilot institute in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in June 2004.

The basic aim of the Confucius Institute is to promote Chinese language and culture and support local Chinese teaching. It is a non-profit social welfare organisation and adopts a Sino-foreign co-operative education school-running model.

All bids for setting up Confucius Institutes are submitted by foreign parties, and co-operation agreements are signed on the basis of the principle of mutual voluntariness and full consultation between the Chinese and foreign parties.

These agreements uphold the principles of equality, mutual benefit, and win-win co-operation.

As Germany’s former minister of defence Rudolf Albert Scharping said at an opening ceremony of the Institute: “Confucius has always advocated peace, and the establishment of the Confucius Institute will help introduce China’s international approach of pursuing peace to the world.”

The original vision of China’s Ministry of Education was to establish 100 Confucius Institutes around the world within 10 years. In fact, 46 were established in 2005, and the figure of 100 was reached in 2006.

Since then, more and more co-operative institutions, social organisations, government agencies and enterprises across the world have become very accepting of the Confucius Institute model which has led to many more institutions applying to establish one in countries across the world.

As of December 2019, China had established 550 CIs and 1,172 Confucius Classrooms (CC) in primary and secondary schools in 162 countries.

The CIs have provided services for tens of millions of students from numerous countries to learn Chinese and understand Chinese culture. They have played an important role in promoting the development of international Chinese education and have become an important platform for the world to understand China.

However, in recent years, accusations that the CIs are “a spy agency” have been rampant. Ironically, the instigator was the former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who was once the head of the world’s largest spy organisation, the CIA, and who has infamously publicly admitted that “we lie, we cheat, and we steal.”

Pompeo used this as an excuse to force the closure of most CIs in the US. This is a full return to McCarthyism and the cold war mentality — it is an out-and-out political persecution.

Of the 118 CIs that once existed in the US, 104 were closed down by June 21 2022 and four more are in the process of being shut down.

Britain has followed the US in launching attacks on the UK’s 30 CIs. Britain’s Minister for State Security Tom Tugendhat told MPs in November 2022 that Confucius Institutes “pose a threat to civil liberties in many universities in the UK.”

The institutes are said to be a direct extension of the Chinese Communist Party. The British security forces claim the CIs are used by China’s government to harass and spy on Chinese students in Britain.

However, the US and European countries such as Germany, Britain and France have opened their own language schools all over the world and the Confucius Institutes are no different from those schools.

In fact, the CIs have provided important channels for people to communicate and a window for understanding the true China through learning its language and culture.

Since becoming US President Joe Biden has regarded China as US’s main competitor and even enemy. In a speech by the US Secretary of State Blinken on China policy at the Asia Society Conference last June, he claimed that China poses the most severe long-term challenge to the international order which is why the US is attempting to implement a policy of comprehensive containment and suppression of China.

The international order that the US keeps talking about is actually an order that serves the interests of the US and maintains its global hegemony.

In reality, the US is the biggest source of chaos in the world order. There is no need for me to list all the wars initiated by the US – today Washington is even preparing to wage one against China.

In a YouGov America 2017 survey “Friends and Enemies of the US” China wasn’t even on the list of US enemies.

However, things drastically started to change when US intelligence agencies began, since 2018, to feed Western media negative and defamatory stories about China and consistently promoted the narrative that China is the US’s greatest enemy.

As a result in just over five years, the vast majority of Americans and people in countries allied to the US have become fearful of China and hate crimes targeting Chinese people have dramatically increased in the US, Britain as well as in Canada and Australia.

The original sin of the Confucius Institutes is that they provide a window of learning about Chinese language and culture, a bridge connecting people around the world and an opportunity to understand the real China.

This cuts across the West’s slander and smearing of China and is the reason the US and its allies are forcing their closure.

In recent years, the concept of “building a community with a shared future for mankind” proposed by Chinese President Xi has aroused enthusiastic responses in the international community, and has been written into important documents of multilateral mechanisms such as the United Nations and the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation many times.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said that China has become an important pillar of multilateralism — and the purpose of multilateralism is to build a community with a shared future for mankind.

Let’s unite, and realise our only future together.

No Cold War (Britain) has issued the following statement urging the British government to abandon its plans to shut down Confucius Institutes can be read here: Read and share No Cold War Britain latest statement ‘Don’t close Confucius Institutes in Britain – defend academic freedom and cultural exchanges’.

The above article was originally published here by the Morning Star.