Op-Ed Contributors

No need to fuss over Confucius Institutes

By Liu Chang (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-14 08:19
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Perhaps no one will call Goethe Institutes, Alliances Francaises or Cervantes Institutes propaganda vehicles or tools of cultural invasion. So, why all the fuss over China's Confucius Institutes, which share the same goals?

China is not the first to set up such institutes nor does it have a monopoly over overseas cultural promotion.

The first Alliance Francaise was set up in 1883 and has been entrusted with the task of promoting the French language and culture abroad - a task identical with that of Confucius Institutes.

At present, there are about 1,100 language centers in 133 different countries.

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Similarly, Germany began opening Goethe Institutes in 1951, while the Cervantes Institutes started admitting students in 1991.

If these practices are condoned and even celebrated, why are China's efforts creating doubts?

Cultural invasion, by definition, indicates intentional and systematic actions to replace one country's cultural habits with those of another. Yet what Confucius Institutes are doing is simply opening a window through which foreigners can catch a glimpse of traditional Chinese culture if they so desire.

More importantly, it is up to people who visit these institutes to decide whether to accept these foreign values because Confucius Institutes have no such jurisdiction, let alone being invaders from an alien culture.

Additionally, those who accuse the institutes of being propaganda vehicles have no facts on which they can base their charges.

China began helping establish Confucius Institutes in 2004. These non-profit facilities are designed to offer Chinese learning programs to language learners and promote the knowledge of this ancient civilization.

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