UNC and 100 U.S. campuses take China government funds for ‘Confucius Institutes’

by WorldTribune Staff, January 17, 2018

The University of North Carolina Charlotte said its new Confucius Institute will fill a “growing demand for Chinese language instruction and cultural activities to better understand China.”

Critics say the institutes, which are present on more than 100 U.S. college campuses, are merely propaganda outlets which follow a strict Chinese Communist Party-approved curriculum.

Opening ceremonies for UNC Charlotte’s Confucius Institute. / YouTube

Li Changchun, a member of China’s Politburo standing committee, said in a 2011: “The Confucius Institute is an appealing brand for expanding our culture abroad. It has made an important contribution toward improving our soft power. The ‘Confucius’ brand has a natural attractiveness. Using the excuse of teaching Chinese language, everything looks reasonable and logical.”

The Chinese government-funded Confucius Institutes are “Overseen by a branch of the Chinese Ministry of Education known colloquially as Hanban, the institutes are part of a broader propaganda initiative that the Chinese government is pumping an estimated $10 billion into annually, and they have only been bolstered by growing interest in China among American college students,” Ethan Epstein, associate editor of the Weekly Standard wrote in a Jan. 16 analysis.

UNC Charlotte College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean Nancy Gutierrez said in a press release: “We made the decision to host a [Confucius Institute] because we believe that this partnership will allow us to expand understanding of Chinese culture very broadly – for community members and for our students.”

Gutierrez said “A faculty advisory committee will provide the intellectual guidance … ensuring that we are guided by principles of academic freedom.”

Currently, Confucius Institute courses do not offer academic credit at UNC Charlotte.

The institutes “ignore concerns over human rights” and teach “that Taiwan and Tibet indisputably belong to Mainland China,” Epstein noted.

“Many of those universities who maintain Confucius Institutes appear to go to great lengths to shield them from criticism.”

Epstein noted that, in 2017, Rachelle Peterson of the National Association of Scholars, reported on 12 Confucius Institutes at colleges in New York and New Jersey.

Peterson said “There were a lot of unanswered emails, a lot of unanswered phone calls” and interviews were often canceled at the last minute.

Epstein wrote: “The most disturbing event transpired at Alfred University in upstate New York. There, Peterson, says, she had ‘called the Confucius Institute, spoken to a teacher … and received permission to sit in on [a class].’ As she observed the Chinese-language class, she recalls, the provost of the university charged into the classroom, interrupting the lesson. He ordered her removal from the classroom and told her she had to leave the campus immediately. The provost and a Confucius staffer swiftly escorted her off campus. (Alfred University did not respond to a request for comment asking to confirm or deny Peterson’s account.)”

Epstein wrote: “That so many universities have welcomed the Confucius Institute with open arms points to another disturbing trend in American higher education: an alarming willingness to accept money at the expense of principles that universities are ostensibly devoted to upholding. At a time when universities are as willing as ever to shield their charges from controversial viewpoints, some nonetheless welcome foreign, communist propaganda – if the price is right.”

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