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Confucius Institute victim of US policy shift

China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-30 07:05
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Editor's note: The University of North Florida has become the latest US university to sever ties with the Confucius Institute, claiming the relationship with the Chinese-funded institute does not conform to its "mission and goals". Besides, the 2019 US National Defense Authorization Act, passed by the full US Congress on Aug 1, bans the Pentagon from funding Chinese language programs at US universities that have Confucius Institutes on their campus. Why has the United States targeted the Confucius Institute time and again, and what should the organization do to weather the storm? Two experts share their opinions with China Daily's Liu Jianna on the issue. Excerpts follow:

US has made the cultural front another battlefield

That the US has once again turned against a Chinese cultural exchange platform reflects the profound change in its policy toward China, which has been identified as a "strategic competitor" of the US and a revisionist power in the Donald Trump administration's first National Security Strategy report.

The repeated targeting of the Confucius Institute shows the US is now also using cultural exchanges and organizations to target China, which is a notable change from its earlier focus on the economic, political and military fronts. This shows how paranoid the US could become when it comes to China.

As a nonprofit public educational organization, the Confucius Institute aims to help foreigners learn the Chinese language, and about China and its culture, as it is somewhat necessary for students to know the values and culture of the country whose language they are learning. Dealing a blow to the Confucius Institute fearing they could be used as vehicles for "infiltration" is not what the world expects of a superpower that claims to champion diversity. Therefore, the US should stop targeting the Confucius Institute if it is really committed to promoting diversity.

Exchanges between the two peoples will continue, however, despite the disruption to the intergovernmental cultural exchange mechanisms established under the Barack Obama administration. And more and more Americans are expected to welcome the Confucius Institutes, because by learning the language, they can gain in advantage and opportunities both at work and in life.

Tao Wenzhao, a researcher on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Institution management should be improved

A series of setbacks the Confucius Institute has suffered in the US suggests the US administration is determined to comprehensively contain China not only on the political, economic and military fronts but also in cultural fields. By labeling normal cultural exchanges as infiltration activities, the US has created an ideological battleground and returned to the Cold War mentality, which could put bilateral cultural exchanges on hold and harm the interests of the two peoples.

Faced with the US' excessive scrutiny and baseless accusations, the Confucius Institute should illustrate with hard facts that it is not involved in any infiltration activities on US campuses or elsewhere. It should also gain the world's understanding and trust by showing the results of its programs and their contribution to the overall well-being of people around the world.

Besides, the Confucius Institute needs to be more careful with its overall arrangement and management. For instance, it has partnered with universities that already have their own departments of Chinese language and literature, resulting in unnecessary competition and complication. Besides many Confucius Institutes are concentrated in a certain region, which may prompt local residents to doubt the intention of the organization, not to mention the waste of resources.

Nonetheless, the Confucius Institute's future will remain promising as long as it sticks to its guiding principle of helping foreigners learn the Chinese language and culture. And hopefully, the clouds gathering over Confucius Institutes will soon dissipate.

Yang Mian, a professor at the Institute of International Relations, Communication University of China

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