According to a report by the National Association of Scholars, Confucius Institutes, the controversial Beijing-backed language and cultural learning centres that were mostly closed across the US after being designated as foreign missions by the State Department, are rebranding and reopening.
According to the report, of the 118 Confucius Institutes that once existed in the United States, 104 were closed as of June 21 and four are in the process of closing, according to VOA.
Of these, “at least 28 have replaced their Confucius Institute with a similar programme, and at least 58 have maintained close relationships with their former Confucius Institute partner,” according to the report.
Perry Link, a professor of Chinese language studies at the University of California, Riverside, was taken aback by the June 21 report, which updates a March 2018 report.
Link told VOA Mandarin that he was initially struck by “how many Confucius Institutes have been shut. I didn’t expect the rate of closures to be so high. Second, they still exist in another way with another name. I think this is expected. I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon.”
In October 2021, the Chinese state-owned Global Times quoted a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Germany as saying, “China firmly opposes the politicisation of academic and cultural exchange activities.”
Critics saw the institutes as a tool to monitor and interfere with campus speeches and activities, as well as an overseas propaganda machine for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). For example, the Confucius Institute objected to North Carolina State University’s plan to invite the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, to speak on campus in 2009.