China Says No Talking Tibet as Confucius Funds U.S. Universities

A lengthy article in Bloomberg looks at Confucius Institutes on American college campuses and how they are influencing the curriculum of China studies. Stanford University, which accepted $4 million to set up a Confucius Institute, refused Chinese government demands that professors in the program not mention Tibet:

China is expanding its presence on U.S. campuses, seeking to promote its culture and history and meet a growing global demand to learn its language. Hanban, a government-affiliated group under the Chinese education ministry, has spent at least $500 million since 2004 establishing 350 Confucius Institutes worldwide and about 75 in the U.S., four times the number in any other country, according to its annual reports and website.

Once confined to teaching Mandarin and traditional arts such as calligraphy at state university campuses, China-funded Confucius Institutes are making inroads into elite higher education by contributing millions of dollars for research, sparking faculty concerns about muting criticism of China’s government. The Association for Asian Studies, a leading group of China scholars with 8,000 members worldwide, decided in March it wouldn’t seek or accept Hanban support, due to the lack of a firewall separating China’s government from funding decisions.

“By peddling a product we want, namely Chinese language study, the Confucius Institutes bring the Chinese government into the American academy in powerful ways,” said Jonathan Lipman, a professor of Chinese history at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. He also sits on the China and Inner Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies.

“The general pattern is very clear,” Lipman said. “They can say, ‘We’ll give you this money, you’ll have a Chinese program, and nobody will talk about Tibet.’ In this economy, turning them down has real costs.”

Read more about Confucius Institutes via CDT, including a look at the institute’s policy of only teaching standard Mandarin in its language classes.


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