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Thread: Confucius Institutes

  1. #16
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    Continued from previous post


    NMSU's Confucius Institute partners with Blue Dragon Dojo on its performance of the Dragon Dance at Branigan Cultural Center. Here, students perform the dance in a Chinese New Year celebration on Jan. 28. 2017. (Photo: Josh Bachman/Sun-News)

    In 2018, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee his bureau was concerned that CI's might be used to plant operatives and exploit academia for the purposes of propaganda or espionage. Some senators urged universities in their states to terminate the programs.

    Many did just that, especially after the 2019 national defense authorization prohibited universities from hosting a CI if they also received federal funding for Chinese language studies.

    More: Review into New Mexico State football lingers over program

    The University of Missouri recently announced it was closing its CI because the U.S. state department changed its visa policy to require a certified Mandarin Chinese language teacher in every classroom with a Confucius Institute member. The university said complying with that directive would be cost prohibitive.

    Loss of instruction and outreach

    The institute at NMSU provided Chinese language instruction there and at the University of Texas at El Paso, as well as dual credit courses at schools in Doña Ana County and elsewhere in New Mexico. The institute also provided teaching materials and cultural activities at the private Cathedral High School in El Paso.

    "The institute was providing instructors for the Chinese language classes being taught at the high schools across the district," Las Cruces Public Schools Superintendent Karen Trujillo told the Sun-News, adding that after this semester "it will be difficult to continue offering Chinese as a foreign language option for our students."

    Masson said Chinese language instruction in K-12 schools was popular with parents.

    "We used to teach Chinese in Hatch and in Vado, and in both places Spanish-speaking parents came to us and said, 'We want our kids to be able to speak Chinese because the pecan buyers and the chile buyers are Chinese, and we want to be able to talk directly to them." Masson recalled during an interview at her office on campus. "If they've grown up in a bilingual world, they know the necessity of being able to meet people in their language."


    On a classroom door in Breland Hall on New Mexico State University's Las Cruces campus, university mascot Pistol Pete greets visitors to the Confucius Institute in Chinese on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (Photo: Algernon D'Ammassa/Sun-News)

    The institute also hosted speakers' series open to the public, often on topics unpleasant to the Chinese government, as when it screened a documentary about a Tibetan exile in China and hosted a talk by the filmmaker — all with Chinese funding.

    On Feb. 26, the institute will present what may be its last public talk, featuring Georgetown University professor and China expert James Millward. His talk will focus on the Chinese government's treatment, including mass internment, of the Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic minority that is predominantly Muslim, inhabiting the northwestern region of Xianjiang.

    Despite concerns raised at some CI locations over academic freedom and censorship from Beijing, Masson said NMSU had never experienced opposition from China over the content of its programming or the speakers it hosted.

    "We have always stated categorically, explicitly, the minute our granting agency denies us funding for any activity that we plan to do, that's the minute we shut our doors," Masson said.

    Closure 'an unfortunate choice'

    Hammond, the CI's first director, said speaking events organized by the institute have been a successful outreach opportunity for NMSU, drawing visitors to campus while providing students with exposure to international studies and an important world language.

    In an interview on campus, Hammond called the closure "an unfortunate choice that our administration has made, depriving a whole lot of kids of educational opportunities that I just really feel are critical right now."

    Hammond argued that if enrollment was a factor in the administration's decision, a better conclusion would be to promote the institute further, since it offered so much instruction and community outreach at very little cost to the university.

    "We are serving a community that is generally underserved, and perhaps stands to benefit more from this kind of increased international opportunity," he said.

    Federal pressure to close CI's

    Although the university does not receive funding from the Department of Defense for language programs, it has worked with the department on a range of programs in research, training and scholarships.

    Masson noted that political pressure has been building in Congress to use all federal funding as leverage for inducing universities to close their CI's.


    Blue Dragon Dojo member Florencia Visconti demonstrates martial arts during a Chinese New Year celebration at the Branigan Cultural Center on Jan. 28, 2017. NMSU's Confucius Institute collaborates with the dojo to perform the traditional dragon dance in Las Cruces. (Photo: Josh Bachman/Sun-News)

    "Every year when the defense authorization acts … come up, senators have tried to put riders in saying if you have a CI on your campus, all DOD funding will be removed," Masson said. "Those haven't passed, but the drumbeat's been there. Any big state institution that gets millions of dollars of DOD funding cannot afford that risk."

    "NMSU is committed to international collaborations and we will continue to provide students with opportunities to learn about different cultures and languages," the university's statement said. "We will expand our efforts to build educational and cultural connections with the people of China and provide quality language programs to our students."

    Hammond suggested closing the Confucius Institute amounted to walking away from a program that has been delivering on that promise for 12 years.

    "It just seems so counterproductive to turn away from an opportunity that is otherwise just not going to be here," he said. "It's not as though the university has the spare resources to create new positions to teach Chinese on campus."

    Algernon D'Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, adammassa@lcsun-news.com or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.
    I caught the end of a newspiece on NPR during this morning's commute. I went to search for it and see that I'm behind on updating this thread.
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  2. #17
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    Medgar Evers College

    In contrast, here's a new one.

    Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn opens controversial Confucius Institute
    By Melissa Klein February 8, 2020 | 7:41pm


    Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights, Brooklyn
    Paul Martinka

    Medgar Evers College has added a Chinese-funded institute to its Brooklyn campus at the same time other schools are booting similar programs.

    A Confucius Institute opened this fall at the school, which is part of the City University of New York, to teach Chinese language and culture classes.

    Medgar Evers is to get $1 million over five years by hosting the institute, which will also provide classes to local public school students, according to a CUNY announcement.

    Confucius Institutes, which first opened in the US in 2004 and are also located at Columbia University and at CUNY’s Baruch College, have become controversial because of their ties to the Chinese government.

    The American Association of University Professors in 2014 said that they “function as an arm of the Chinese state and are allowed to ignore academic freedom.”

    The AAUP recommended universities boot the programs unless their agreements with the institutes adhered to certain guidelines including that colleges have control over recruiting teachers and determining curriculum and choice of texts.

    An AAUP spokeswoman said the group had not changed its position since its 2014 statement.

    FBI Director Christopher Wray in 2018 said the agency was “warily watching” the institutes.

    In the last year, at least 10 institutes have closed or announced plans to shutter, according to an accounting by Inside Higher Ed.

    A Medgar Evers spokeswoman would not comment on whether the college was following the AAUP guidelines, and would not provide a copy of the school’s agreement to run the institute.

    Instead, spokeswoman Giulia Prestia said, “Chinese languages are the most widely spoken languages in the world. College students including Baruch College students benefit from Chinese language classes offered in collaboration with the Confucius Institute. Medgar Evers College’s expectation is that its students might similarly benefit by participating in a global forum.”
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  3. #18
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    University of Maryland

    Jan 18, 2020
    America's oldest Confucius Institute to close
    Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

    Citing federal regulations, the University of Maryland said on Friday that it will close its Confucius Institute, the earliest of its kind in the United States.

    Why it matters: It is the latest in a string of U.S. universities to end their partnerships with Chinese government-funded language and culture programs.

    The big picture: Amid allegations of censorship and U.S. government scrutiny over its activities, these Chinese government-funded language and culture programs face growing barriers in the U.S.

    On Jan. 17, University of Maryland President Wallace Loh wrote in a campus-wide email that it was no longer possible for the school's Confucius Institute (CI) to continue to operate, due to U.S. government regulations.

    The program will close at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.

    In 2004, the University of Maryland became the first U.S. university to host a Confucius Institute. Now, it is only the latest school to close its Confucius Institute due to U.S. government pressure.

    Confucius Institutes have faced growing criticism for censoring speech on U.S. campuses and for prohibiting politically sensitive topics in language classrooms.

    Critics say the programs allow China’s authoritarian government to censor American students on American campuses.

    But proponents argue that Confucius Institutes offer valuable language education, particularly at schools that otherwise can’t afford to offer Chinese language classes.

    Details: The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act prohibited universities that receive funding for language programs through the Department of Defense from also accepting Chinese government funding for Confucius Institutes.

    What they’re saying: “After evaluating the impact of this legislation on UMD, it became evident that we can no longer host Confucius Institute at Maryland,” wrote Loh. “We have notified CI Headquarters in Beijing that we are ending our agreement.”

    Background: Confucius Institutes are funded by through the Chinese Ministry of Education, which also provides textbooks and teachers.

    The institutes are embedded on the campuses of universities around the world. At their peak, there were over 100 such institutes as US colleges and universities.

    The programs offer Chinese language and culture classes and programming.

    The bottom line: Engagement with China was once seen in a positive light. But as China’s government has taken a hard authoritarian turn, and as the U.S. mood toward China has soured, it’s gotten harder for joint U.S.-China programs to survive.
    Here's an old article above and a rebuttal below:
    UMD shouldn’t have closed its Confucius Institute
    Kevin Hu
    February 04, 2020


    Decorations hang outside the main office of the Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland in Susquehanna Hall on Oct. 9, 2019. (Joe Ryan/The Diamondback)

    Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

    Tucked away on the fourth floor of Susquehanna Hall lies the University of Maryland’s Confucius Institute, a compact but lively hub for Chinese language and culture. I had no idea what it was until a few months ago. I only became aware of its existence after stumbling upon a Diamondback article on the ongoing federal investigation surrounding it.

    My curiosity piqued, I did some research and learned it was a non-traditional academic institution designed to immerse students, parents, and even young children in Chinese language and culture. Browsing through some of their past cultural events immediately made me nostalgic; it was essentially the higher education equivalent of the Chinese school program that I attended throughout my childhood and teenage years.

    I was devastated after finding out that our Confucius Institute was closing. As someone who benefited greatly from a similar program, I know firsthand how important it was for Chinese Americans to be given the opportunity to understand and appreciate their heritage.

    Growing up, I had difficulty coming to terms with what felt like separate identities. The ideals that were ingrained into me at home — the absolute importance of respect and profuse gratitude – were completely different from what I was taught at school. Occasionally, I felt that my silence and deference were misrepresented as a lack of intelligence and confidence.

    It didn’t take long before I began to resent my Chinese heritage. I felt detached from my peers. It wasn’t until I started attending elementary school at Hope Chinese School that I began to realize the metaphorical distance I felt from my peers was due to underlying differences in our cultural beliefs.

    Every Saturday, I would learn about popular folktales and partake in traditional Chinese games and performances. Through my experiences, I became more cognizant of the basis on which a large number of Chinese values and idioms rested upon. I started to understand my heritage and why my cultural norms were different than my peers. The knowledge empowered me; I began to realize there was overlap between these two seemingly disparate identities and this allowed me to assimilate without compromising my cultural background.

    This experience isn’t something that you can achieve simply by taking a Chinese class at the University of Maryland. In a traditional academic setting, the emphasis is typically on scrutinizing the subject through a scholastic lens. However, in order to understand and truly appreciate different cultures, a holistic mindset and the ability to empathize with unfamiliar perspectives are arguably more important. To accomplish this, sometimes it’s best to withdraw from standard academic expectations and learn in a non-traditional environment like the Confucius Institute.

    However, primarily due to political pressure and concerns about espionage, universities are being coerced into closing down their Confucius Institutes nationwide. As relations between the United States and China deteriorate, more Americans now harbor unfavorable opinions of China and view it as a threat. The recently passed National Defense Authorization Act prevents Defense Department funding for institutions that host Confucius Institutes. In addition, prominent senators, such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, have raised concerns about government-influenced censorship and security breaches related to these institutions.

    While these concerns are undeniably valid – especially given the evidence so far – it seems presumptuous to assume that these institutes are important enough to a possible espionage strategy to warrant a mass closure. Despite widespread suspicions, there has been no positive proof of any security breaches related to Confucius Institutes. In addition, these institutions are apolitical by nature – they focus on the diffusion of Chinese language and culture – so it’s illogical for critics to be worried about potential censorship. As controversial as this may seem, these institutions aren’t mandated to discuss Tibet or Taiwan. If you were taking a class to learn American English or culture, chances are you probably wouldn’t learn about the human atrocities committed during the Iraq War.

    Without Hope Chinese School, I probably would’ve continued to live in suspension between two outwardly irreconcilable cultures. For Chinese Americans who want to embrace their dual identity or for anyone that wants to understand a prevalent but foreign culture, it’s imperative that we continue to support Confucius Institutes. This iron-fist response appears to be an impulsive response to rising xenophobia when we could work toward a compromise that protects our national security while remaining faithful to the noble mission of these institutions.

    Kevin Hu is a sop****re physiology and neurobiology major. He can be reached at kevxhu@gmail.com.
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  4. #19
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    Not to blame Trump but his tenure is causing a 'whitewash" of institutions, who vision is to spread positive information but the xenophobes are turning it into an unmaneageable task with corresponding laws to support that public ignorance. What will be the result of some countries closing US cultural institutes because they are said to be eroding the local culture and brainwashing their citizens.

  5. #20
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    Is there a U.S. equivalent to a Confucius Institute?

    It’s Time for a New Policy on Confucius Institutes
    By Jamie P. Horsley Thursday, April 1, 2021, 2:30 PM

    A plaque commemorating the opening of a Confucius Institute at the University of Michigan in 2009. (Brett Ashley, https://tinyurl.com/499frcym; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)
    On March 5, the U.S. Senate voted to deny Department of Education funding to universities that host Confucius Institutes (CIs)—the controversial Chinese language and culture centers partially financed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—unless they meet oversight requirements. A federal campaign against their alleged “malign influence,” pressure from politicians and Department of Defense funding restrictions have prompted and accelerated closure of more than half the CIs in the United States. Faculty concerns over preserving academic freedom and university budget constraints concerning operating funds have all contributed to the trend. But so has a decline of American student interest in China studies and learning Mandarin Chinese. These closings and the attendant inflammatory rhetoric exacerbate a national foreign language deficit at a time when training Mandarin speakers familiar with an ever more consequential China should be a national priority.

    To meet this challenge, the U.S. government should increase funding for Mandarin language and China studies courses, but also stop forcing cash-strapped universities to choose between federal funding and properly managed CI programs. Multiple investigations into U.S.-based CIs, including by the Senate, have produced no evidence that they facilitate espionage, technology theft or any other illegal activity, no evidence that federal funds are used for their support, and only a handful of objectionable U.S. incidents. The Biden administration should lift, or provide necessary waivers of, federal funding restrictions on universities that demonstrate appropriate academic freedom and institutional safeguards around their CIs, which are no longer directly funded by the Chinese government. It should also consider authorizing the Confucius Institute U.S. Center (CIUS) to serve as a visa sponsor to assist Chinese teachers and staff of CIs obtain the proper visas, as well as enable CIUS to serve as a clearinghouse for information on such PRC personnel for relevant U.S. government agencies.

    What are CIs and what’s the threat?

    The global CI program was initially launched under China’s Ministry of Education (MOE) in 2004, and more recently has been advanced as part of the PRC’s national strategy of Chinese culture “going global.” It consists of campus-based language and culture partnerships formerly funded in part and supported by the MOE. Many CIs also assist Confucius Classrooms teaching Chinese language at K-12 schools. The CI program sent hundreds of teachers to help meet U.S. government goals for Mandarin instruction under the Bush and Obama administrations. An estimated 51 CIs, 44 of them campus-based, continue to operate, down from a peak of 110 throughout the country. This number includes at least seven CIs that are scheduled to close in 2021. In addition, K-12 schools continue to host about 500 Confucius Classrooms.

    Prior to a June 2020 reorganization, U.S. universities typically negotiated five-year CI agreements with the MOE CI headquarters, called “Hanban,” and Chinese partner universities. While a 2019 Senate subcommittee report described CIs as being “controlled, funded, and mostly staffed” by the Chinese government, they have operated as U.S.-Chinese joint ventures, jointly funded and managed. Sometimes, they have co-directors from China and the United States but many are directed by a U.S. faculty director and a Chinese deputy. Boards of directors composed of university officials and faculty from each side exercise general oversight. Hanban contributed start-up funds to, and shared operating costs with, the U.S. partner institution, which also supplied classrooms and administrative support. Hanban additionally provided language teaching materials, if requested, and paid the salaries and international travel costs for the Mandarin language teachers from the Chinese partner university, as well as grants for research, study tours to China and other matters in some cases. The exact arrangements vary. At larger universities with separate Chinese language departments teaching for-credit courses, CIs typically focus on language teacher training, K-12 language classes and community language and cultural outreach. Some CIs specialized in areas such as healthcare, business, Chinese food and beverage culture, and Chinese film.

    CIs generated legitimate concerns about academic freedom and independence due to their direct support from, and admitted role as a “soft power” instrument for, China’s party-state. The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) United Front organization oversees propaganda and education and is tasked to promote cultural exchanges, friendship between the Chinese and other peoples and a good international environment for achieving China’s policy objectives. In a 2014 report on CI partnerships, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) argued that allowing third-party control of academic matters compromises academic freedom and institutional autonomy. AAUP recommended that universities cease involvement with CIs, which it characterized as “as an arm of the Chinese state,” unless their agreements are transparent to the university community, afford them control over all academic matters and grant CI teachers the same rights enjoyed by other faculty. The subsequent closure of CIs at two universities attracted congressional scrutiny and prompted a series of dueling reports.

    An influential 2017 study of 12 CIs by the National Association of Scholars identified a range of concerns including transparency, contractual language, academic freedom and pressure to self-censor. It urged closing all CIs and suggested prudential measures for universities that refused to do so. The study further called for congressional inquiries to evaluate CI national security risks through “spying or collecting sensitive information” and their role in monitoring and harassing Chinese, although it documented no such incidents. In contrast, a 2018 joint Hoover Institute-Asia Society study of Chinese influence activities in the U.S., which acknowledged concerns that campus-based CIs might “potentially infringe” on academic freedom—and made similar recommendations to reduce potential risks—found no actual interference by CIs in mainstream Chinese studies curricula on U.S. campuses and that most CIs operate without controversy.

    A congressionally-commissioned study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published in February 2019 essentially supported that view. Its analysis of governance and secrecy provisions in 90 CI agreements found that U.S. university personnel generally control curriculum and teaching materials, although this is not always made clear in agreements. With respect to a frequently voiced concern that CI agreements often stipulate applicability of both U.S. and Chinese law, it reproduced a common provision also contained in the Hanban template CI agreement that Chinese personnel working at CIs must comply with U.S. law, while Chinese law would apply to Americans involved in China-based CI activities. It further reported a variety of negotiated provisions making U.S. law, as well as school policies, applicable to all CI activities, as in this published agreement.

    The GAO found that, although 42 of the 90 agreements contained confidentiality clauses, many agreements are publicly available, either posted online, as at least 11 universities did, through state open records laws, or upon request. After describing the benefits including increased resources and concerns about potential constraints on campus programming and speech associated with CIs, the GAO reported that school officials denied having such concerns about their CIs, a finding supported by a contemporaneous 2019 Senate report.

    Early attempts to impose political requirements for CIs to support the “One China Principle or refrain from discussing Tibet,” for example, were rejected. At least three U.S. universities with CIs have hosted the Dalai Lama, although a CI director warned another university’s provost that re-scheduling a cancelled visit by the Dalai Lama could disrupt relationships with China, leading the provost to observe that a CI does present opportunities for “subtle pressure and conflict.” Most CIs do limit their scope to language and traditional culture, leaving political and other topics to other university contexts. The CI project is intended to promote a favorable understanding of China, but CIs do not enjoy a monopoly over information available on campuses, and based on interviews and at least one study, any concerns that American students will be brainwashed by CCP propaganda, delivered through CIs or otherwise, are overblown. Nonetheless, school officials joined others interviewed in the GAO and Senate studies in suggesting CI management improvements, such as clarifying U.S. universities’ authority and making agreements publicly available.
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  6. #21
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    continued from previous post

    CI partnerships also became embroiled in a Department of Education (DOE) initiative to enforce a foreign gift reporting requirement. After the 2019 Senate study found nearly 70 percent of universities that received more than $250,000 from Hanban failed to properly file, the drive focused on China, even though other countries were larger donors to U.S. higher education.The DOE report on the initiative’s results referenced CIs in connection with concerns that “foreign money buys influence or control over teaching and research.” Widespread non-compliance with the reporting requirement, more a matter of confusion, rather than secrecy, prompted a new DOE reporting portal in June 2020.

    As tensions between the U.S. and China grew, federal policymakers frequently conflated CI-related academic freedom concerns with a broader set of issues including: Chinese efforts to steal technology, intellectual property and research data; disruptive activities by some campus-based Chinese student associations and China’s consulates; Chinese talent recruitment plans; and other suspect influence efforts. Passed in August 2018, the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) prohibited the Pentagon from financing Chinese language programs at universities that host a CI, absent Department of Defense waivers, which have not been granted. Despite a bipartisan congressional finding announced in February 2019 of “no evidence that these institutes are a center for Chinese espionage efforts or any other illegal activity,” the 2021 NDAA broadens the restriction to funding for any program at universities that host CIs.

    CI Reorganization

    China’s MOE reorganized the CI project in June 2020, implementing a CCP-approved reform plan to develop CIs as a “significant force” for cultural and educational exchange with other countries. MOE replaced Hanban with a new agency to manage overseas language and culture exchanges, the Center for Language Education and Cooperation (CLEC). CLEC will continue to help provide Mandarin teachers and requested teaching materials. However, the Chinese International Education Foundation (CIEF), a nominally independent organization registered with the Civil Affairs Ministry, supervised by MOE, and initiated by 27 Chinese universities, companies and social organizations, will manage the CI brand and program. CIEF is now responsible, working together with Chinese partner universities, for contractual and funding arrangements, not Hanban or MOE.

    This rebranding is unlikely to relieve suspicions about the role of CIs in China’s “soft power” projection. Chinese universities that participate in CIEF and serve as CI partners are mostly state-funded and, like everything in China, under CCP leadership. Moreover, as a recent study commissioned by China’s MOE observed, in a charged U.S. political atmosphere, the “Confucius Institute” brand is now associated with Chinese political interference. Nonetheless, at least one U.S. university, Georgia’s Wesleyan College, signed on with CIEF for the duration of its current CI agreement, although others in the U.S. and Europe are proceeding with announced closures. Elsewhere, CIs continued to open in Chile, South Africa, Kenya and Greece, with plans to establish them in Dominica, Maldives, Chad and Central Africa.

    Confusion over CIUS

    In August 2020, the Department of State designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center (CIUS) as a “foreign mission,” effectively controlled by the Chinese government that funds it. Established in Washington, D.C. in 2012 to promote Chinese language teaching and learning in the U.S., CIUS connects school districts interested in developing a Chinese language curriculum to appropriate CI and other resources, and provides professional development opportunities to Confucius Classroom teachers. While acknowledging that CIUS does not undertake diplomatic activities and none of its employees are government officials, the department characterized it as the “de facto headquarters of the Confucius Institute network” and “an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign on U.S. campuses and K through 12 classrooms.” Citing its opacity and state-directed nature as the “driving reasons behind this designation,” the State Department also directed CIUS to provide details on funding and curriculum materials it supplied to CIs and K-12 Confucius Classrooms and the names of all PRC citizens CIUS had referred or assigned to them.

    In its response to the department, CIUS explained that, although it seeks to foster awareness of CI programs, it does not fund, supply, staff, supervise or serve as a headquarters for CIs in the U.S. As a registered nonprofit corporation, its financials and related organizational details are publicly available through annual IRS Form 990s. Moreover, after the Hanban reorganization in June 2020, CIUS is no longer directly supported by China’s MOE, nor has it received any funding from CLEC or CIEF and must look to fundraising from Chinese and U.S. universities and other sources.

    Given this reorganization and CIUS’s role, the State Department might revisit its foreign mission designation. Regardless, CIUS could usefully serve as a visa sponsor, as do some states and nonprofits like the Cordell Hull Foundation, for U.S.-based CIs. Visa issues for visiting teachers have prompted suspensions and contributed to cancellation of some CI programs. As a centralized visa sponsor, CIUS could help ensure compliance with U.S. law and serve as an information clearinghouse on Chinese CI personnel in the U.S., one of the benefits the department had hoped to obtain from the CIUS foreign mission designation.

    Filling the Chinese language deficit

    A State Department report on the China challenge calls for the U.S. to train a new generation of public servants and policy thinkers to attain fluency in Chinese and acquire extensive knowledge of China’s culture and history. Yet, interest among U.S. students has been declining since peaking around 2011, as American views of China more generally have plunged to the lowest level since polling began. Multiple factors, including dimmer China-related job prospects, as well as pollution and academic and lifestyle concerns relating to study within the PRC, explain this trend. Nonetheless, official U.S. pressure to close CIs and their K-12 programs, including by withholding federal funds for universities that host CIs, is further exacerbating a national “language deficit” precipitated in part by decreased U.S. government higher education and foreign language funding over the years. In addition, some universities still have difficulty finding qualified Mandarin teachers, especially at the K-12 level, to satisfy remaining demand.

    Meanwhile, Chinese students are required to learn English from elementary school and as a requirement to gain admission to, and in many cases graduate from, college, with an estimated 400 million Chinese—including front-line military troops—now learning English.

    To be sure, some private U.S. NGOs offer Mandarin learning, including an Asia Society program with 35,000 students studying Chinese in 100 K-12 schools around the country that are linked with sister schools in China. U.S.-based China and Taiwan-oriented groups also offer various Chinese education, culture and teacher training courses, as well as teaching of Chinese dialects and traditional Chinese characters still used in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

    Nonetheless, federal funding is needed to adequately meet the Mandarin language challenge and lessen cash-strapped universities’ dependence on Chinese funding and other teaching support. The U.S. government launched an initiative with Taiwan in December 2020 to expand existing Mandarin language opportunities in the U.S. and help fill a gap created by CI closings. It should also increase Mandarin language and China studies funding under other critical language programs, and re-authorize the Fulbright program with China, including language awards, that were terminated in July 2020.
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  7. #22
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    continued from previous post

    Due diligence, not dissolution

    Budget cuts impacting universities’ ability to finance their share of operating costs, coronavirus obstacles and low Mandarin class enrollment, compounded by federal government funding restrictions, may mean the end of CIs after a 15-year, generally controversy-free record in the United States. Yet the U.S. is facing a critical shortage of Mandarin-speaking China experts. Even critics concede the CI program has provided valuable learning experiences otherwise unavailable due to budget constraints and the lack of Mandarin teachers at universities and public schools across the nation.

    The Biden administration has the opportunity to reassess the concerns, evidence and U.S. actions taken with respect to the remaining Confucius Institutes and Classrooms. It should disaggregate legitimate national security concerns, including Chinese espionage and technology theft, from academic freedom issues that are best left to our universities. The federal government and Congress should work to protect our national security in a manner that does not impinge on the academic freedom or institutional autonomy they also seek to protect. Over 30 of the universities, as well as the College Board, that ended CI partnerships since 2017 did so under political pressure that threatened loss of federal funding—not over concerns of Chinese interference or declining interest. Marshall Sahlins, an early and eloquent CI critic who was instrumental in closing the University of Chicago CI in 2014, observed ironically in mid-2018 that “the American government now mimics the totalitarian regime of the PRC by dictating what can and cannot be taught in our own educational institutions.”

    Universities should, of course, continue to be vigilant against the potential for unwelcome influence including implicit pressure on faculty to self-censor, as well as to ensure compliance with the Department of Education’s foreign gift and other reporting requirements, and visa rules for CI exchange visitors. Given the allegations surrounding CIs, which continue to be pressed by bipartisan Congressional coalitions, CI host universities should all publish their CI agreements online. The CIUS, no longer directly funded by China’s MOE, is well positioned to serve as both a visa agent to help ensure appropriate visas are obtained and a clearinghouse for information on Chinese teachers and administrators working in CIs.

    More broadly, the U.S. government also has an urgent interest in stabilizing the U.S.-China relationship so that the two countries can work together constructively to meet common challenges. That formidable task requires the U.S. to foster more realistic and actionable expectations, criticisms and commitments, rather than policies and actions based on an alarmist China caricature that does not reflect the more complex reality of that country, its people and its behavior abroad. In an era of tight funding for and decline of interest in Chinese language and culture programs, and a clear need for cultivating Mandarin speakers and China expertise across multiple disciplines, the modest financial contribution and native Mandarin language professionals provided through an appropriately managed CI network should be welcomed, not castigated.

    The author thanks James Haynes, former Research Assistant, and intern Jingye Huang - Foreign Policy, John L. Thornton China Center, The Brookings Institution, and Mia Shuang Li and research assistant Claire Ren Yixin of the Yale Law School Paul Tsai China Center, for valuable research assistance and insights. All views expressed only represent the personal opinions of the author.
    Soft power is very tricky.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  8. #23
    I believe in Confucius words.

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