Confucius Institute

Confucius Institute
Confucius Institute
Confucius Institute logo
Type Educational Organization
Founded 2004
Location 129 Deshengmenwai Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, P.C. 100088, China
Area served Worldwide
Focus Chinese culture, Chinese language
Method Education

Confucius Institutes (simplified Chinese: 孔子学院; traditional Chinese: 孔子學院; pinyin: kǒngzǐ xuéyuàn) are non-profit public institutions that aim to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching internationally, as well as facilitating cultural exchanges. They are sometimes compared to language and culture promotion organizations such as France's Alliance Française and Germany's Goethe-Institut. Unlike these organizations, however, Confucius Institutes operate within established universities,raising concerns over their influence on academic freedom and the possibility of industrial espionage.[1] Confucius Institute (CI) headquarters are located in Beijing. The program was started in 2004 and is financed by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (colloquially, Hanban (汉办)), a non-profit organization affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China.[2] The institutes operate in co-operation with local affiliate colleges and universities around the world. The related Confucius Classroom program partners with local secondary schools or school districts to provide teachers and instructional materials.[3][4]



After establishing a pilot institute in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in June 2004, the first Confucius Institute opened on November 21, 2004 in Seoul, South Korea. Hundreds more have since opened in dozens of countries around the world with the highest concentration of Institutes in the United States, Japan, and South Korea.[5] In April 2007 the first research-based Confucius Institute opened at Waseda University, in Japan. In partnership with Beijing University the program promotes the research activities of graduate students studying China.[6] As of July 2010, there were 316 Confucius Institutes and 337 Confucius Classrooms in 94 countries and regions.[7] The Ministry of Education estimates 100 million people oversees may be learning Chinese by 2010 and the program is continuing rapid expansion to keep pace.[8] HanBan aims to establish 1,000 Confucius Institutes by 2020.[9]


The well-known Chinese philosopher, Confucius (551-479 BCE) is the namesake for the Institutes. Communist leaders throughout the 20th century have criticized and denounced the philosopher as the personification of China's "feudal" traditions, with anti-Confucianism ranging from the 1912 New Culture Movement to the 1973 Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius campaign during the Cultural Revolution.[10] In recent decades, interest in pre-modern Chinese culture has grown in the People's Republic of China, and Confucius in particular has seen a resurgence in popularity.[11] Abroad Confucius is a universally recognizable symbol of Chinese Culture, free of the controversy surrounding other such prominent Chinese figures such as Mao Zedong.[12]

"Confucius Institute" is a trademarked brand name. Chen Jinyu, Vice-Chairperson of the CI Headquarters, explained, "With regards to the operation of Confucian Institutes, brand name means quality; brand name means returns. Those who enjoy more brand names will enjoy higher popularity, reputation, more social influence, and will therefore be able to generate more support from local communities."[13] A 2011 crackdown protected "Confucius Institute" from preregistration infringement in Costa Rica.[14]


The stated mission of the Confucius Institute program is promote learning of Chinese culture and language abroad, and to encourage commercial and trade cooperation. Specifically. the institutes develop Chinese language courses for various social sectors, train Chinese language instructors and provide them with teaching resources, establish local facilities for the holding of the HSK Examination (Chinese proficiency test) and for the administration of procedures for the certification of the Chinese language teachers, provide information and consultative services concerning Chinese education, culture, economy and society, and promote research about contemporary China.[15] The director of the program, Xu Lin, has said that the Confucius Institutes were started because of a sudden increase in interest in Chinese language in neighboring countries and the United States. Additionally, the Institutes have provided Chinese language teaching staff from the Mainland to fill growing demand until local teachers can be sufficiently trained and certified. As of 2011 there were 200 such teachers working in the United States.[16]

The project also has a more abstract public relations purpose to improve China's image abroad, and assuage concerns of a "China threat."[17][18] Li Changchun, the 5th-highest ranking member of the Politburo Standing Committee, was quoted in The Economist saying that the Confucius Institutes were “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up”—a statement that has been seized upon by critics as evidence of a politicized mission.[19] Many foreign scholars have characterized the CI program as an exercise in soft power, expanding China's economic, cultural, and diplomatic reach through the promotion of Chinese language and culture,[20] while others have suggested a possible role in intelligence collection.[21][22]


Hanban states on its website that it is a non-government organization, though it is connected with the Ministry of Education and has close ties to a number of senior Communist Party officials. The current chair of Hanban is Politburo member Liu Yandong,[23] whose former postings include the head of the United Front Work Department.

The Chinese Government shares the burden of funding Confucius Institutes with host universities, and takes a hands-off approach to management.[24] The Institutes function independently within the guidelines established by Hanban and the Confucius Institute headquarters. Each Institute is responsible for drawing up and managing their own budget which is subject to approval by the headquarters. Confucius Institute headquarters provides various restrictions on how their funds may be used including earmarking funds for specific purposes.[25] Institutes in the United States are generally provided $100,000 annually from Hanban, with the local university required to match funding.[26]

In addition to their local partner university Confucius Institutes operate in co-operation with a Chinese partner university.[27] Many Institutes are governed by a board which is composed of several members from the Chinese partner school and the remainder of the members are affiliated with the local partner university.[28] At most Institutes the director is appointed by the local partner university.[24]


In the short time-frame of their rapid expansion the Institutes have been the subject of much controversy. Criticisms of the Institutes have included practical concerns about finance, academic viability, legal issues, and relations with the Chinese partner university, as well as ideological concerns about improper influence over teaching and research, industrial and military espionage, surveillance of Chinese abroad, and undermining Taiwanese influence.[29] There has also been organized opposition to the establishment of a Confucius Institute at University of Melbourne,[30] University of Manitoba,[31] Stockholm University,[32][33] University of Chicago[34] and many others. Underlying such opposition, mostly by professors, is a concern that the Confucius Institute will interfere with academic freedom and will be able to pressure the university to censor speech on topics the Communist Party of China objects to. An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education writes that here is little evidence of meddling from China although the same article did go on to say the Institutes were "distinct in the degree to which they were financed and managed by a foreign government."[26] A writer for The Diplomat also found that after the range of people she spoke to, there was no evidence of Confucius Institutes as propaganda vehicles although two of the people the writer interviewed were CI directors. [35]

See also


  1. ^ 'Has BCIT sold out to Chinese propaganda?', The Vancouver Sun, 2 April 2008.
  2. ^ "The Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban)". University of Sydney Confucius Institute. Retrieved 2 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "Introduction to the Confucius Institutes". Retrieved 2 July 2011. 
  4. ^ Jianguo Chen, Chuang Wang, Jinfa Cai (2010). institute&f=false Teaching and learning Chinese: issues and perspectives. IAP. pp. xix. institute&f=false. 
  5. ^ Simon, Tay (2010). Asia Alone: The Dangerous Post-Crisis Divide from America. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 42. 
  6. ^ "Signing of Waseda University Confucius Institute Agreement Established as the first Research Confucius Institute in collaboration with Peking University". Waseda University. Retrieved 11 July 2011. 
  7. ^ 316 Confucius Institutes established worldwide, Xinhua, 2010-07-1.
  8. ^ China to host second Confucius Institute Conference, Xinhua, 2007-12-06.
  9. ^ Confucius Institute: promoting language, culture and friendliness, Xinhua, 2006-10-02.
  10. ^ Starr (2009), p. 68.
  11. ^ Melvin, Sheila (August 29, 2007). "Yu Dan and China's Return to Confucius". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 July 2011. 
  12. ^ "China’s Confucius Institutes Rectification of statues". The Economist. Jan 20th 2011.’s_confucius_institutes?page=1. Retrieved 2 July 2011. 
  13. ^ Starr (2009), p. 69.
  14. ^ Zhou Wenting, Trademark infringement continues despite crackdown, China Daily 07/29/2011.
  15. ^ "About Us". Confucius Institute Online. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  16. ^ Linda Tsung and Ken Cruickshank (2011). Teaching and Learning Chinese in Global Contexts. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 151. 
  17. ^ French, Howard W. (January 11, 2006). "Another Chinese Export is All the Rage: China's Language". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  18. ^ Xiaolin Guo (2008), Repackaging Confucius, Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm, Sweden, July 2008.
  19. ^ A message from Confucius; New ways of projecting soft power,, 22 Oct 2009.
  20. ^ Peter Schmidt (2010b), At U.S. Colleges, Chinese-Financed Centers Prompt Worries About Academic Freedom, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 9/17/2010.
  21. ^ Fabrice De Pierrebourg and Michel Juneau-Katsuya, “Nest of Spies: the starting truth about foreign agents at work within Canada’s borders,” HarperCollins Canada, 2009. pp 160 - 162
  22. ^ Janet Steffenhagen, 'Has BCIT sold out to Chinese propaganda?', Vancouver Sun, 2 April 2008.
  23. ^ Hanban News, 'Madame Liu Yandong, State Councilor and Chair of the Confucius Institute Headquarters Delivers a New Year’s Address to Confucius Institutes Overseas', 1 March 2010. Accessed 7 Sept 2011.
  24. ^ a b "A message from Confucius: New ways of projecting soft power". The Economist. October 22, 2009. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  25. ^ "Regulations for the Administration of Confucius Institute Headquarters Funds". Hanban-News. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  26. ^ a b Schimdt (2010b).
  27. ^ "Confucius Institute at Talinn University". Talinn University. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  28. ^ "Board of Directors". University of Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 3 July 2011. "Governing and Advisory Boards". Regents of the University of Minnesota. Retrieved 3 July 2011. "Our Board". Confucius Institute at the University of New South Whales. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  29. ^ Don Starr (2009), Chinese Language Education in Europe: the Confucius Institutes, European Journal of Education Volume 44, Issue 1, pages 78-79.
  30. ^ Geoff Maslen (2007), Warning – be wary of Confucius institutes University World News, December 2, 2007.
  31. ^ Profs worry China preparing to spy on students,, April 27, 2011.
  32. ^ Starr (2009), p. 6.
  33. ^ "i Kina är tio miljoner barn utan en ordentlig skola" Riksdagens snabbprotokoll 2007/08:46 (in Swedish)
  34. ^ Peter Schmidt (2010a), U. of Chicago's Plans for Milton Friedman Institute Stir Outrage on the Faculty, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 06/01/2010.
  35. ^ Ulara Nakagawa. Confucius Controversy, The Diplomat.

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