A new US government rule that may significantly impact the operations of the many Beijing-sponsored Confucius Institutes affiliated with US universities stirred up heated discussions on Sina Weibo about China and its promotion of soft power.
The Confucius Institutes are a global network of non-profit public institutes sponsored by the Chinese government to promote Chinese language and culture globally. Confucius Institutes usually work with local universities and receive a kick-off fund of $50k to $100k from China. Many teachers within the Confucius Institutes in the US are directly from China and hold J-1 visas, a non-immigration visa for exchange scholars or visitors in cultural or educational programs.
The new US rule requires that the Confucius Institutes seek US government approval before teaching at elementary or secondary schools in the US and that its teachers with J-1 visas leave by June 30.
From the Chronicle of Higher Education as cited by China Realtime Report:
“The memorandum, dated May 17, states that any academics at university-based institutes who are teaching at the elementary- and secondary-school levels are violating the terms of their visas and must leave at the end of this academic year, in June. And it says that, after a “preliminary review,” the State Department has determined that the institutes must obtain American accreditation in order to continue to accept foreign scholars and professors as teachers.”
Amid China’s conflict with the Philippines over Huanyan Island in the South China Sea and Beijing’s new campaign to clear up three illegal foreigners, one would assume that the move will be seen as new evidence of the US’s hostility towards China and be responded with US-bashing nationalistic sentiments.
Well…there are some who think the new rule proves that the US is afraid of China’s cultural invasion. For example, ylb0512 warned: “China is increasingly facing the ‘war of cultures.’ The anti-Chinese culture sentiment in the US is on the rise, trying to stop the export of Chinese culture.” 笑如夏葵 continued: “The US is very alert about crisis of any kind. Whenever they feel a bit threated by cultural invasion, they’d take action.”
But things are far from US bashing. SerenitySusan commented, “It’s probably because Chinese culture has such strong power of penetration. After all, we have so many people. Throughout history, whoever rules China becomes part of Chinese-ness.” “Similar US programs come to China to earn money and China’s Confucius Institutes are giving money out. Refusing money put at door. What’s wrong with the US?” asked 色影游侠.
And such voices are far outnumbered by voices of rejoice and questioning, as summarized by 小K黄狐: “This is not ‘soft power’ talked about by those at the top. This is ‘power that is soft’.”
Chinese government is wasting tax payers’ money in supporting Confucius Institutes
何囧老湿V did an calculation, “How much tax money has been wasted on these Confucius Institutes for the promotion of Chinese language? In 2008, the budget was as high as 1.6 billion yuan and it’s growing year after year. Yet for the Hope Project (a nation-wide project in China to support education in poor rural areas), the total investment in 20 years is only 5 billion. Why throwing money away to support education in foreign countries? Why not spare some money for our own kids?”
He is not alone in complaining about Chinese government’s generosity. 温柔依稀 commented: “You said you don’t have money for health care and education. Now the US saves you money. Why not be happy? Your own kids cannot afford to see doctors or buy books, and yet you spend millions to put on a show at your neighbors’ home. Now the neighbor kicks you out of their home. Why this is a bad thing? Our own people’s livelihood is much more important than a show in other countries. When can you learn?” 黑白大地 also asked: “A few millions for a Confucius Institute in the US. China is truly selfless. What about education on your own land?” 郑家三公子 commented; “Use our ancestors’ ‘face’ and our money for vanity. Now that the money has been wasted and we lose all our ‘face’.”
Some made more direct requests. 吾不悟空 urged: “Please use the money on our own kids in rural areas.” gpgpbest added: “Confucius Institutes…are we Chinese tax payers funding the project? Please disclose all budgets.” And 蒋一心 even thanked the US for its new rule: “As far as I know, all that these Confucius Institutes do is wasting money. Each of them just lavishly spends Chinese tax payers’ money and yet leaves only very bad impressions. The US is helping the Chinese people with human rights issues and helping us regulate our government officials. Thanks!”
Chinese government is in no position to promote Chinese culture
The name of Confucius Institutes also reminded many of the early days of New China and its painful history of Culture Revoluation when Confucius was a major subject of condemnation in the overhaul of feudalism thoughts. 骏棋-Relief recalled: “50 years ago, ‘Down with Confucius’ was promoted like crazy. Now Confucius Institutes are set up everywhere. What a sea change! Not sure how Confucius would think about this.” O大漠独行O commented: “A government who dug out Confucius’ grave supports Confucius Insititutes in foreign lands? How can you convince them that you are sincere?” 东北虎6466 asked: “Which government is best at promoting anti-China crap? Which government used to promote ‘Down with Confucius’? And now they are blaming the US.”
Some others simply think that China is no longer a Confucius country. onion42 commented: “What Confucius valued most is morality and virtues. How many in China now dare to say that they have virtues? Corrupted Chinese shouldn’t be allowed to promote Confucius in the first plave.” 兩間居士 commented: “Who are you kidding by these so-called Confucius Institutes? Our own people no longer believe in Confucius. Who else can be brainwashed?”
The US is not stupid
And of course, many support the new rule by US government. 行者张小样 commented: “ To promote Chinese version of Nazism in the US in the disguise of Confucius. Do you think the Americans are stupid?” Such sentiment is not uncommon to see. 领袖民贼皆一丘 shared the same view: “It’s very necessary for the US to prevent China from promoting enslaving education and authoritarian thoughts.” 潜尨勿用 echoed: “This is normal because one can only get authoritarian thoughts from Chinese words. The teachers probably only teach about enslavement and dictatorship. Teachers from Taiwan won’t be sent back.”
Many others are more blatant. Eric小冷 commented: “Support the US. Don’t endanger the whole world.” 黄河之水8888 was even more direct: “The US is afraid of communism.” “The Americans know very clearly about the sad truth of our education. They don’t want their kids to have bad influences,” said 去去鱼. 侯海松要牢记什么真正值得追求 joked: “If the US set up Democracy Institutes in China, they will have the same fate.”
Data by Sina shows that the US is the country with the largest number of Confucius Institutes.
“By the end of 2011, more than 300 Confucius Institutes have been set up in 104 countries around the world.”