Criticism of Confucius Institutes unfair

Updated: 2014-10-30 07:21

By Wang Hui(China Daily)

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In the past decade, the institutes have played the role of cultural ambassador, riding a wave of international enthusiasm for the learning of Chinese and bringing unique cultural experiences to millions of people through various activities.

After participating in a program organized by the Confucius Institute at University of Sydney, James Kean wrote:

"The 2013 Chinese Culture Study Tour was an incredible experience. From the sightseeing and the exquisite food, to the language and culture classes that we were immersed in, the experiences and memories of the tour will last a lifetime. My knowledge of Chinese culture, history and language were greatly improved. I highly recommend the tour to anyone interested in these areas!"

Last month, in his letter marking the first Confucius Institute Day and the 10th anniversary of the organization's founding, President Xi Jinping said Confucius Institutes belong not only to China but also to the world, and the government and people of the country will go on supporting their development.

As key Chinese education centers abroad, the institutes are now entering their second decade. More should be done to guarantee that they can better meet foreigners' needs, for both the Chinese language and culture.

Improving the institutes was a topic that drew the attention of participants at a forum held in Dalian, Liaoning province, over the weekend. The forum, organized by Dalian University of Technology, focused on security cooperation in the Asia Pacific region and on cultural diplomacy.

While recognizing the institutes' role in promoting culture, participants suggested that efforts to promote Chinese culture overseas should be made in ways that foreigners can easily accept.

There are similarities, as well as differences, between the Chinese and Western cultures, said Zhang Tao, director of the American Studies Center at Sichuan International Studies University, adding that the role of non-governmental organizations and good practice in Western cultural exchanges programs could both shed light in the operation of China's Confucius Institutes.

The lessons learned by US NGOs in forging educational ties with other countries could also be useful for China as it engages in cultural diplomacy, said Ni Jianping, deputy director of the Shanghai Institute of American Studies.

These are all good suggestions for promoting cultural diplomacy and ushering in another decade of success for the Confucius Institutes program worldwide.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

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