The West has such a problem with Beijing that even its means for language and cultural learning, the Confucius Institute, is viewed with suspicion. Amid accusations of distorting history, avoiding sensitive topics and even being a front for propaganda and espionage, the centres in some countries have been forced off university campuses and out of classrooms. Critics see their links to the government, which provides funding, teachers, lesson material, equipment and free courses and exams, as especially troublesome. A restructuring will help alter perceptions, but it is just the first step of a rebranding process. With little fanfare, the Ministry of Education has set up a centre to run overseas Chinese language programmes that has a similar remit to Hanban , the state-owned body responsible for the Confucius Institutes. Hanban is affiliated with the ministry and provides “Chinese language and cultural teaching resources and services worldwide”. Authorities contend the new organisation, called a language cooperation centre, will be independently managed by educators from the public and private sectors. It is surmised that the new organisation will replace the old and there will be a rebranding. Since being founded in 2004, Hanban has attained extraordinary reach, with more than 540 Confucius Institutes in dozens of countries. But with the United States and its allies worried about China’s rise, the schools have become increasingly controversial, their Chinese-designed curricula and teaching being perceived as being incompatible with Western values. Overseas studies determine they focus on the positive aspects of China, generally avoiding politics and sensitive topics such as Taiwan and Tibet and paying attention to traditional Chinese culture. But the West’s growing trade, technology and strategic tensions with China have led to conflict over a number of issues and Confucius Institutes have been among the first casualties. Universities have ended partnerships with Hanban in countries including the US, Britain, France, Denmark and Sweden. There have been accusations of foreign interference and claims that academic freedom and institutional autonomy have been undermined or put at risk. In such a turbulent geopolitical environment, Beijing’s severing of ties with the institute and giving it genuine independence makes sense. But that has to be a first step. The institute’s free lessons are also problematic; to some people, that raises suspicions, so charging would make courses seem more professional. The word “Confucius” also has connotations that could be perceived negatively. Language and culture are Beijing’s soft power, but only when they are presented properly will the effort have a positive impact.