Confucius Institute celebrates 10 years at CCD

The Confucius Institute expands worldwide as the branch on campus celebrates its tenth anniversary.

The institute’s mission is to develop Chinese cultural ties around the world. However, this expansion comes amid continued concerns regarding the Confucius Institute’s ties to the Chinese government.

Confucius

Xu Gang, President of the Confucius Institute closing the Confucius Institute Day celebration on on Sept. 30th at the King Center. Photos by Sandisz Thieme | sandiszthieme@gmail.com

The institute says it “is committed to increasing intercultural understanding and Chinese language acquisition,” both culturally and academically. The institute offers Chinese language tutoring, artistic workshops, and scholarships to students to study abroad in the country.

Since 2004, the Confucius Institute has provided foreign universities with generous cash grants to set up these language and cultural centers.

However, there are concerns over the institute’s connections to the Office of Chinese Language Council International, or Hanban, which many claim has ties to China’s government, as well as the institute providing intelligence to the Chinese government about Chinese citizens on campus. There are also concerns about the soft power the organization projects.

States use soft power to increase their influence by expanding the reach of their language and culture. The institute helps these goals through its general operations as well as providing American schools with Chinese teachers. The institute at CCD has previously provided teachers to the school.

Xiansheng Tian, a professor in MSU Denver’s history department, worked on an advisory board with the institute during the institute’s arrival.

“My understanding is that the influence is very minimal,” he said. “If the government of China tried to do that, it’s a failure. You can hardly influence anyone here.”

Tian asserts the institute is simply trying to introduce students to Chinese culture, noting that, “Perhaps in the long run, they will change some people’s opinion.”

This demonstrates part of the institute’s goal of enhancing international ties between host nations and China.

There are over 100 Confucius Institutes in the United States and over 500 worldwide. The CCD Confucius Institute is the only one in the world  affiliated with a community college.

In 2014, however, two institutes in the United States were closed down. The University of Chicago closed the institute’s doors during a negotiation process to renew their contract. One reason cited was the institute director’s boast to a Chinese publication that she secured the institute’s position with a single line letter to the university.

Jane Lim, director of the Confucius Institute at CCD.

“If your school decides to withdraw, I will agree to it,” said Xu Lin, the director of the Hanban. This statement aggravated the University of Chicago.

That same year, Pennsylvania State University cited differences with the Hanban’s goals when they refused to renew the contract with the institute. Five more schools across the world closed down their institutes in 2013 and 2014, and two more in Germany failed to open.

While the Confucius Institute was undergoing scrutiny at the time, the University of Chicago’s decision was broadcasted as less of a concern about the organization and more as a retaliation to the institute’s director. The other schools, which closed the doors on the institute, brought up failed negotiations with contract renewal, instead of mentioning concerns with the institute’s ties to the Chinese government.

Despite these concerns, in September the institute opened its fourth location in Turkey and plans to open a new headquarters in Panama at the end of the year.

While considering the reasons for the closures, the Director of the Confucius Institute at CCD Jane Lim said, “Each Confucius Institute is highly dependent on its host institute, and their relationship with their host institution.”

However, Lim has little fear about that happening at CCD.

“I would say we have a great relationship with the Community College of Denver,” she said.

With a brief look at the institute’s background, Myron Anderson, associate to the president for diversity at MSU Denver stated that from a diversity stance, “increased cultural understanding, as a fundamental, is positive as it generates additional avenues to connect us culturally.”

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