Asia Minute: Senate Panel Criticizes Confucius Institute

Feb 28, 2019

Confucius Institute Brighton College
Credit Mark Morgan / Creative Commons / Flickr

A U.S. Senate panel has issued a report that’s critical of an educational organization backed by the Chinese government. And it’s a group that has a presence here in Hawai‘i.

The U.S. Senate’s permanent subcommittee on investigations has issues with the Confucius Institute. That’s an organization funded by the Beijing government with a presence on the campuses of about 100 U.S. universities — including the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

On its website, the Institute’s UH branch says its aim is “to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching internationally, and facilitate cultural exchanges.”

The senate panel conducted an 8-month investigation into the Institute’s overall presence in the United States. Staffers found a lack of transparency and “strings that can compromise academic freedom” – inhibiting criticism of the Chinese government or discussion of politically sensitive topics such as Taiwan or Tibet.

Another criticism: their presence gives the Chinese government access to the U.S. education system in a way that China does NOT reciprocate.

They found no evidence linking the Confucius Institute with espionage.

The senate panel reports China’s government has spent about 158 million dollars over the past 13 years on the Institutes in the United States . . . although it provides no specific breakdown.

The presence at UH started in 2006.

A report from the Government Accountability Office was more neutral — finding universities reported both “benefits and concerns” about the presence of the Confucius Institute.