Western universities close more language institutes in China

DALIAN, China - As part of its strategy for greater international influence, China is spending big on Confucius Institutes, culture and language centres, around the world.

However, reports that these centres are deliberately pushing Beijing's stance on politically sensitive issues, such as Tibet and human rights, have brought the Communist Party's attempts at public outreach into strife within North American and European universities. Many such institutions have decided against renewing contracts and will close the Beijing-affiliated organisations on their campuses.

In June, Stockholm University will shut down the Confucius Institute that it opened in 2005. "The Confucius institute in Stockholm has existed for 10 years and has done very valuable work in teaching the Chinese language and promoting Chinese culture in Sweden," the university's vice-chancellor Astrid Soderbergh Widding told The Nikkei. "However, there are problems with hosting an institute funded by a foreign country within the university."

"We prefer to develop bilateral academic exchange agreements for both research and education. We already have several bilateral agreements in China," the vice-chancellor added. The decision is a surprise, as Stockholm University was the first to welcome one of Beijing's cultural institutes to Europe.

China launched the Confucius Institute initiative in 2004. It currently operates a total of 476 such organisations in 127 countries in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa as well as Central and South America.

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