Confucius confusion: USC’s Chinese ‘propaganda’ machine
- The University of South Carolina says the Confucious Institute will continue to operate on its campus, despite U.S. intelligence and the Chinese government acknowledging that it spews Chinese "propaganda."
- USC says the content taught in its Confucius Institute is under the "direct supervision" of the university but one scholar told Campus Reform that it's not what the institutes do teach that presents a problem but what they don't teach.
The University of South Carolina is standing firmly in its resolve to continue operating a Confucius Institute, a propaganda outpost of the Communist Chinese government.
According to University media spokesperson Jeffrey Stensland, “USC has enjoyed a 10-year partnership with the Confucius Institute, and by all accounts, it’s been a positive one for our students, faculty, and staff.” The university’s statement comes even as the Chinese government has admitted that it uses Confucious Institutes as “propaganda.”
According to Politico, Chinese minister of propaganda Liu Yunshan said in a 2010 article for People’s Daily, “with regard to key issues that influence our sovereignty and safety, we should actively carry out international propaganda battles against issues such as Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, human rights and Falun Gong...we should do well in establishing and operating overseas cultural centers and Confucius Institutes.”
Since 2014, the American Association of University Professors has decried the Confucius Institute as an origination which reduces “the integrity of the university and its academic staff.” According to the association, “Allowing any third-party control of academic matters is inconsistent with principles of academic freedom, shared governance, and the institutional autonomy of colleges and universities.”
Controversy like this has led to the closure of Confucius Institutes at North Carolina State University, the University of Illinois, Texas A&M and more in years past. The University of South Carolina acknowledged this saying that they “are aware that some institutions have decided to end their affiliation with the Institute, but cannot speak to the specific reasons why or what the nature of those individual partnerships may have been.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) condemned the Confucius Institute during a Senate hearing in February: “It is my view that they’re complicit in these efforts to covertly influence public opinion and to teach half-truths designed to present Chinese history, government or official policy in the most favorable light.”
FBI director Christopher Wray responded saying that his agency has taken “investigative steps” against Confucius Institutes.
Campus Reform reached out to Rachelle Peterson of the National Association of Scholars for her perspective on the Confucius Institute at the University of South Carolina. Rachelle is a policy director at the NAS and is responsible for the production of a 187-page report on Confucius Institutes.
“Each Confucius Institute has two directors as well as a set of teachers,” Peterson told Campus Reform. One of these directors is a professor in America, the other, China.
“The Chinese Ministry of Education that oversees the Confucius Institutes, vets potential teachers and proposes a set of teachers to universities… the teachers are selected and paid by the Hanban [agency under Chinese Ministry of Education] and then sent over to teach at the Confucius Institute,” Peterson added.
Despite this, the University of South Carolina sees little potential for their Confucius Institute to be used for propaganda.
“The only courses at USC taught by Confucius Institute staff are language courses. They do not teach culture, literature or film courses and are under the direct supervision of USC faculty.”
Campus Reform asked Peterson about USC’s decision to keep its Confucious Institute.
“With any Confucius institute class, one of the things you ask is what is missing, what is not being taught. At a Confucius Institute what you’ll find is there will be no mention of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, no mention of Tibet, especially China’s aggression towards Tibet, no mention of Taiwan, except to call it a province of China and no mention of anything that is embarrassing to the Chinese government or that casts doubts on the rightness of its regime.”
Rachelle continued, explaining how in doing her research on 12 key Confucius Institutes across America she asked New Jersey City University director Xiuli Yin “what would happen if a student brought up Tiananmen Square, regardless of if there's anything in the curriculum that talks about this.”
The director replied simply that she would “show a picture and point at the beautiful architecture.” Xin was also quoted by the Epoch Times in October as saying, “We avoid sensitive things like Taiwan and Falun Gong—we don’t touch it.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @KyleHooten2