Beijing Renames Confucius Institutes Amid Global Closures

Petitions in Canada call for schools in several provinces to end the program
By Hongyan Lu
Hongyan Lu
Hongyan Lu
July 6, 2020Updated: August 25, 2020

The Chinese regime is changing the name of its controversial Confucius Institutes as increasingly more Western schools are ending the program, which has been criticized for advancing Beijing’s sphere of influence. 

According to a document by China’s Ministry of Education, the institutes, branded by Beijing as promoting Chinese language and culture, are being renamed Centres for Language Exchange and Cooperation. 

“The purpose of the name change is to deepen the language education exchanges and cooperation between China and other countries,” says an article by regime mouthpiece Xinhua News.

The name change comes as more and more Confucius Institutes hosted by educational institutions in the West—including almost 40 in the United States and several in Canada and Europe—are closing amid concerns the Beijing-funded programs are being used to expand the regime’s propaganda and influence abroad, or even for espionage, as cited by intelligence experts. 

Sheng Xue, a Chinese-Canadian author and activist based in the Toronto area, says the fact that Beijing is changing the name of the institutes shows that movements against them have been effective.

“This is good news,” Sheng said. “The Chinese communist regime has realized Confucius Institutes cannot continue, especially in democratic countries.”

According to Sheng, the institutes are part of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) methods of using “deceit” to infiltrate other countries. 

“The CCP has always been cunning and will use a variety of disguises to infiltrate their ideology to the world,” she said, adding that the new incarnation of the institutes must also be resisted. 

In May, Brock University became the latest Canadian university to end its partnership with the program, leaving 10 Confucius Institutes (CIs) still operating in Canada. At one point there were 15 Canadian educational institutions that had partnerships with CIs.

The province of New Brunswick said in February 2019 that it would be pulling the Confucius Institute out of its educational system. Education Minister Dominic Cardy said the program’s aim is to put a “friendly, cheerful face for a government that is responsible for more deaths than nearly any other in the history of our species.”

McMaster University ended its CI program in 2013 after the Chinese partners refused to remove a clause from their hiring requirements that violated human rights in Canada. The clause required that teachers sent from China to teach at CIs in Canada sign a form declaring that they will not practice Falun Gong, whose adherents are persecuted in China.

The same year, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT)  issued a statement asking all Canadian universities and colleges to cut ties with the institutes, calling them “essentially political arms of the Chinese government.”

“They restrict the free discussion of topics Chinese authorities deem controversial and should have no place on our campuses,” CAUT said.

Following CAUT’s call, the University of Sherbrooke also closed its CI in 2013.

Meanwhile, several petitions in various provinces, including Ontario, B.C., and Quebec are calling for the closure of the institutes.

Confucius Institutes advocate blind trust in the CCP. Shockingly, they disseminate these ideologies to children, teens, and young adults around the world, fulfilling the goals of CIs founders and executives,” reads the petition launched in Ontario. 

The petition quotes a former CI chief executive describing the program as “an important part of [China’s] soft power.” 

Educational institutions in Canada that continue to host CIs are the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BC), Saint Mary’s University (NS), Dawson College (QC), Carleton University (ON), University of Regina (SK), University of Waterloo (ON), University of Saskatchewan (SK), the Coquitlam School District (BC), Seneca College (ON), and Edmonton Public Schools (AB). 

Other Canadian universities, such as the University of British Columbia and the University of Manitoba, have rejected partnerships with CIs.

Regarding the name change, Doris Liu, the producer of the documentary “In the Name of Confucius,” told Epoch Times, “The Confucius Institute cannot be promoted further anymore, so they have to do something different.”

“The CCP will never give up this channel to influence the world with language and Chinese teaching,” said Liu.

 With reporting by Omid Ghoreishi and Zhou Xing.