China rebrands Confucius Institutes in effort to quell global backlash

Multiple U.S. lawmakers as well as U.S. intelligence agencies have said Confucius Institutes are nothing more than propaganda centers.

The South China Morning Post reported that Chinese-funded Confucius Institutes will rebrand amid global backlash.

Chinese media is reporting that China will rebrand its Confucius Institutes amid backlash from critics, including the U.S. intelligence community, which has said the institutes act as international propaganda centers for the Chinese Communist Party.

In 2018, President Donald Trump signed a bill that cuts off some federal funding to U.S. colleges that operate Confucius Institutes. However, Campus Reform has identified more than 75 still active Confucius Institutes on America’s college campuses. American lawmakers have called for the closure of Confucius Institutes across the nation because they say the centers pose a threat to America’s national security. 

Some universities have responded to these fears by closing Confucius Institutes on their campuses. Others, meanwhile, have held that while Confucius Institutes on other campuses might pose a threat, that’s certainly not the case for their college. 

[RELATED: Confucius Institute at Mizzou closes after pressure from Washington]

According to the South China Morning Post, Beijing has decided to rename Hanban, the headquarters for its Confucius Institutes, to the “Ministry of Education Centre for Language Education and Cooperation.” The SCMP is owned by the Chinese company Alibaba, which has strong ties to the Chinese Communist Party. 

The purpose of the new centre would be to “uphold the concept of openness, inclusiveness, and respect, trust, and strive to provide assistance to people from all over the world in learning Chinese as much as possible” Ma Jianfei, deputy director and Communist Party secretary of the Confucius Institute Headquarters, said during the online National Chinese Language Conference in June. 

“The Center for Language Education and Cooperation hopes to continue to increase cooperation with relevant institutions in the United States, jointly build a more focused, pragmatic, and efficient new model of China-US language exchange, and make efforts to promote cultural exchanges between China and the United States and enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples,” Jianfei continued. 

[RELATED: U.S. intel concerns ‘do not apply’ to our Confucius Institute, university claims]

Professor at the International School of Tongji University in Shanghai Sun Yixue told the South China Morning Post that the name change was “related to various kinds of pressure, but it is by no means succumbing to them.”

“It is a manifestation of Chinese culture that regards harmony as a precious cultural tradition,” Sun continued.

“It is a timely adjustment made by China to adapt to the new situation of world language and cultural exchanges, but this does not mean that all overseas Confucius Institutes should be renamed accordingly,”  Yixue concluded. 

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