• Thu
  • Nov 27, 2014
  • Updated: 8:22am

People's Daily spars with New York Times over reported 'meddling' of Chinese language institute

Communist party forced to defend Confucius Institute amid criticisms from US academics

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 June, 2014, 4:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 June, 2014, 6:45pm

A Communist Party newspaper was prompted to defend China’s top language and culture institute after a New York Times report featured concerns it was “stifling” academic freedom in US universities.

The New York Times on Wednesday reported that the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) was concerned that the schools’ academic freedom was at risk if the Confucius Institute (CI) was on campus.

Some US academics claim the institutes have a say in the curriculum and, subject its staff and students to Beijing’s beliefs on free speech, the South China Morning Post has previously reported.

But the People’s Daily dismissed the report published on the New York paper’s Sinosphere blog as “deliberately smearing” the institute out of “political bias”.

Earlier this month, the AAUP, a non-profit whose mission is to advance academic freedom in higher education, published a statement about its fears of North American schools' integrity being at risk if they host Confucius Institutes, which have “control of hiring staff, choosing the curriculum and restricting teaching material”.

“Confucius Institutes function as an arm of the Chinese state and are allowed to ignore academic freedom,” the group said.

However, the People’s Daily quoted the dean of the Confucius Institute in Dusseldorf, Germany, as saying that CIs allow academic freedom more than other cultural institutions.

He also said the institutes’ presence in certain countries was a form of Sino-foreign cooperation, and said China’s government had no influence on the institute.

"Those who have been personally involved in establishing the Confucius Institute and other foreign scholars told the [People's Daily] that they are shocked at NYT’s report,” the party mouthpiece said.

“They believe that the AAUP’s attitude comes with political bias and is deliberately smearing the Confucius Institute.”

The state-sponsored Confucius Institute has around 440 branches worldwide, with the most aggressive expansion happening in the United States, where it has 100 offices.

Just last month, more than 100 professors lobbied for the eviction of the Confucius Institute in the University of Chicago as its five-year lease agreement was set to expire. The deal would have been automatically renewed for another five years if neither party objects.

The professors accused the institute of being a propaganda tool, and of meddling in the university’s research and curriculum.

They also said the institute does not encourage free inquiry on sensitive issues like human rights or religious freedom.

CI officials argued the institutes’ programme did not push any ideological content and denied any interference.

Correction: A quote was misattributed to China Daily. It should be People's Daily.


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This article is now closed to comments

M Miyagi
The Confucius Institute in the US have a low key mission to teach the Chinese language and promote cultural exchanges and doesn't have a political agenda and have no capability to affect the academic freedoms in the US. Enrolment in such institutes are all voluntary and no students are forced to go there. For the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to be concerned that the US schools’ academic freedom was at risk if the Confucius Institute (CI) was on campus is really stretching the truth. What they actually mean is the Confucius Institute unwillingness to host discussions of sensitive issues like Tibet, Human Rights which would be a strange thing to do in a language school when other more appropriate avenues are available like the schools dealing with politics, sociology, international affairs. If the Confucius Institute were to abandon it's core mission and meddle in things outside it's scope like hosting discussions of US foreign policy failures, unending wars, why 911 happened, Muslim hatred of the US, would those professors be happy? They will be crying for the closure of the Confucius Institute for interference in US affairs. In any case the arrangement is mutual and voluntary, if the US universities doesn't want the Confucius Institute they can just refuse to renew. No loss there for China. It's like they say, take it or leave it. Just that simple. Nobody is forcing the US universities to host the Confucius Institute.
A clever way to recruit spies in the US.
yeah, genius!!
Gee, an arm of the Chinese Communist Party is using its influence to ensure its propaganda is drilled into the heads of students outside China almost as much as it is in China. Who saw that coming. It is sad that ethnic Chinese and other students are made to be taught this kind of propaganda outside of China. Then again, the PRC has this idea that it is the final arbiter of what is Chinese culture and what it means to be ethnic Chinese. Pathetic.
Confucius say never pet a burning dog!


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