OPENING DOORS - Confucius is to blame

The Confucius Institutes promote Mandarin language and culture in the world.

Around the world, on five continents, there are now over 500 Confucius Institutes. The project began in 2005 under the aegis of the Chinese Ministry of Education which created the Hanban(literally Office of the Han language), an organization charged with promoting the spread of the Chinese language around the world. The Chinese government provides significant funding as part of a long-term program of cultural investment. The Confucius Institutes, however, have met with stern opposition from radical American academics who accuse them of being vehicles of Chinese cultural colonialism.

Other China-watchers called the offices tools of ‘soft power’. But such observers would do well to remember that it was soft power that motivated the institution of the Alliance Française in the second half of the 1800s and the establishment of the British Council in the 1930s. The historical parallels are important and clear: during the height of their economic expansion, two great nations — France and Great Britain — felt it necessary to spread knowledge of their language and culture through dedicated institutes, and they succeeded. 

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