The University of North Florida announced that it will close a campus branch of the Confucius Institute Wednesday. “After reviewing the classes, activities and events sponsored over the past four years and comparing them with the mission and goals of the university, it was determined that they weren’t aligned,” the university said in a statement.
Apparently the decision was made under pressure from US Senator Marco Rubio’s repeated warnings this year. Rubio welcomed the decision and urged other Florida universities to follow suit. Cracking down on Confucius Institutes is a typical example of US politics intervening in university education. There are about 110 Confucius Institutes in the US, and about 500 Confucius Classrooms. Almost no students ever criticized the organizations for improper lessons. It has always been the US elites who accuse Confucius Institutes of ideological infiltration or even spying.
Confucius Institutes teach Chinese using textbooks from the Chinese mainland and some sensitive topics are avoided in class. It’s natural for Chinese people who teach Chinese abroad to do this. Rather than brainwashing, it aims at avoiding controversy in China.
People who learn foreign languages in China all need to study foreign countries’ teaching materials. China never thought that the US would be so sensitive to ideology and so mean to Confucius Institutes.
Language learning is the least ideological activity in international communication. Although China is under the pressure of Western values’ infiltration, few critics would connect it with English learning. If Chinese people had 10 percent of Americans’ vigilance, Hollywood films, Mickey Mouse and other aspects of US culture would have all been banned already.
Extreme politicians like Rubio are hysterical ideologists. In China, xenophobic views can only be found on the internet, but Rubio’s views occupy the mainstream US. It seems that McCarthyism is poised to return to the US.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 also showed vigilance against Confucius Institutes, which worsens their situation in the US. It seems that vigilance against alleged infiltration by China has become a part of national US policies. We still hope that Confucius Institutes in the US won’t fall like dominoes. There could be disputes during cultural exchange, and Chinese people don’t need to get too excited or quit impulsively.
China doesn’t need to relentlessly persuade Americans to keep all the current Confucius Institutes and Classrooms. As long as China maintains its momentum of development, the US will have increasing need to understand Chinese culture. They’ll have to find a way themselves.
What really promotes the popularity of Chinese language is China’s rise. Most countries welcome Confucius Institutes and China can take a step back if several countries have trouble with these organizations. Maybe it will cede space to other methods of popularizing Chinese.
Confucius Institutes have taught many Americans Chinese. Rubio and the Pentagon have showed Chinese people what kind of a country the US really is.
Posted in: EDITORIAL