China Uncensored: Propaganda Wrapped Up as Language Instruction

July 15, 2014 Updated: July 14, 2014

When I hear something being called “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda setup,” by the former head of China’s Propaganda Department Li Changchun, so much so that China has spent over $10 billion on it in four years alone, when a U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee said that same thing has been accused of, “engaging in industrial and military espionage,” and when the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (the Canadian equivalent of the FBI) Director Richard Fadden said that this thing is “controlled by Chinese embassies and consulates,” I can only come to one conclusion—this thing belongs in our schools! 

Ok, at first blush, this seems kind of crazy. But when you really take a good look at it, you realize … that it’s even crazier. I’m of course talking about the now infamous Confucius Institutes. So aside from being a multibillion-dollar affair championed by the head of the Chinese regime’s Propaganda Department that may engage in industrial and military espionage, Confucius Institutes also offer free Chinese language classes to schools!!!

I know, you’re wondering where you can sign up too. I mean, who wouldn’t want to learn Chinese by singing songs like “I Love Beijing Tiananmen,” with lyrics like, “Our mighty leader Chairman Mao, leading all of us forward!” That song was actually featured in a textbook used by Confucius Institutes.

Secret Deal

Recently it came to the attention of concerned parents in Canada that the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the fourth largest school board in North America and largest in Canada, was apparently pushing forward a deal with the Confucius Institutes without letting anyone know the details. 

But it turned out that most of the elected trustees on the school board really had little idea what the Confucius Institute was. It was only because one concerned parent named Michael Lewis actually took the time to research it that the deal didn’t smoothly fly through. He created an online petition,, that got over 1,000 signatures in only a few days.

According to my source on the scene, 200 concerned parents and activists showed up to what was supposed to be the last meeting of the school year—the Confucius Institute agreement wasn’t even on the agenda. They ended up talking about it for two hours. 

Chris Bolton, the chair of the TDSB and man responsible for the deal with the Chinese government, said nothing. Even after two hours, they couldn’t figure out what had happened. So they scheduled another meeting.

Probably, in an effort to help the TDSB actually look into what they were signing, the 47,000-member American Association of University Professors released a statement accusing Confucius Institutes of, “flouting basic rules of academic freedom and integrity.” 

But just a side note about Chris Bolton. He reportedly makes frequent trips to China, speaks Mandarin, has a brother working for a major Chinese bank, and is helping him get investors to set up businesses in Canada. Bolton has also been involved in a number of scandals involving a charity he used to run. 

But he weathered those scandals. Two days after this happened he suddenly and mysteriously retired, with only five months left in his term. So when the next meeting happened, this time with around 500 outside, including Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Taiwanese protesters, the only man who could have answered questions about the deal with the Confucius Institute wasn’t there. 

Apparently what came out after the trustees reviewed the minutes was that Chris Bolton entered negotiations with the Confucius Institute in 2009. The first time it ever came before the board of trustees was in 2012 and that was only two brief bullet points. 

By the next time Confucius Institute was brought up, the contract had already been signed, without even a discussion or review of the contract where a counter argument could have been made. No wonder the trustees knew nothing about the Confucius Institute!

Now, there was one person at this meeting last week that knew anything about the contract. That was a lawyer who had been there for the negotiating process. But he said he couldn’t say anything because the contract was confidential, which is unusual for a deal being made by elected officials that affects a school district. 

That was actually a point made by the American Association of University Professors, “Most agreements establishing Confucius Institutes feature nondisclosure clauses and unacceptable concessions to the political aims and practices of the government of China.” 

Worldwide Issue

To help show the parents just how baseless their fears were that the Confucius Institute was being controlled by the Chinese regime, the Chinese regime wrote two letters to the Toronto School board saying if they suspend the Confucius Institutes, there would be “great damage” done to Chinese–Canadian relations.

Despite the outcry, the school board did not terminate the contract, but only decided to delay a decision until a later date.

But Chris Bolton hasn’t fallen off the edge of the earth. He’s still very open and honest about the whole thing. He even did an interview with Canada’s national radio broadcaster, the CBC-Canadian Broadcast Corporation, where he denied any scandal, saying he was leaving under, “nothing but sunny skies and opportunities.”

An odd way to put it, considering the massive scandal. But to Chris Bolton’s mind, there was no scandal because he’s, “Very pleased with the Confucius Institute, and by and large the people who are complaining about the Confucius Institute are lined with the Falun Gong.” He mispronounces Falun Gong by the way. The interviewer for the CBC fell dead silent after this pronouncement. 

One of the TDSB trustees Irene Atkinson said she’s getting 200 emails a day from “anxiety-ridden people who want nothing to do with the institute,” and Bolton is blaming it all on Falun Gong. Since when did elected Canadian officials start sounding like Chinese Communist Party officials?

For now the issue of the Confucius Institute remains an open question for the Toronto School District, but the Confucius Institute is becoming a worldwide issue. 

The American Association of University Professors is calling for the 100 American universities with Confucius Institutes to cancel or renegotiate their agreements. The website is still accepting signatures for its petition. Let’s just hope no one “hurts the feelings of the Chinese people,” as the letter to the TDSB from the Chinese regime warned.

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Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.