Confucius Institute at UO

3/8/2011 update: Richard Read of the Oregonian gets some amazing quotes on this, from the PSU CI head.

3/6/2011: The London School of Economics has thoroughly embarrassed itself with its ties to the Gaddafi regime. The world now knows you can buy an LSE PhD and whatever that brings in international respectability – or once brought – for a few million quid.

Is UO on a similar track with our Chinese government funded Confucius Institute? China is no Libya, but this article by UO history Professor Glenn May in the Asia Sentinel raises the sorts of questions that the LSE apparently found too uncomfortable to ask – until it was too late.

Abstract from the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization:

Since 2001, China has funded nonprofit Chinese language institutes in nearly100 countries. The institutes have since branched out into business and other areas while also funding scholarships and study in China. In an article for the Asia Sentinel, Glenn Anthony May of the University of Oregon points out that the centers of study come with conditions, including support for a one-China policy that denies recognition of Taiwan as a state. Donors influence campus management and presentations, and schools with Confucius Institutes may avoid open discussions on Tibet or the 1989 Tiananmen protest against Chinese government policies. He argues: “Once the perks from Hanban begin to arrive, professors at universities with CIs become extremely reluctant to do anything to upset their generous benefactors.” Colleges have become complicit in Chinese propaganda and censorship, and May blames the Chinese scholars who comply with restrictions, yet understand the issues of history and need for free debate better than most. – YaleGlobal

Here is just one of the troubling examples in the article:

But it’s not just Taiwan that receives special treatment. Two other “T” words are anathema to Beijing, and hence to Hanban: Tibet and Tiananmen. Don’t expect any universities with CIs to arrange a visit of the Dalai Lama anytime soon or to schedule a symposium on the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. In Canada last year, during riots in Tibet, the head of a Confucius Institute at the University of Waterloo succeeded in reversing the direction of coverage and getting a major Canadian television station to apologize for its previous pro-rebel coverage. …

Under the circumstances, the academy cannot expect the China scholars, the supposed experts on things Chinese, to police the activities of the institutes. They are, sad to say, a hopelessly compromised lot. Nor can we expect university administrators to do so either – many of them have played key roles in establishing Confucius Institutes on their campuses. That leaves the rest of us. If you care about free speech and believe that the university should provide an open forum for discussion and debate, you should be concerned. 

Peter Schmidt of the Chronicle has an article here on the pros and cons. (Accessible from campus IP addresses.) Some excerpts:

Like the 60 other Confucius Institutes that have cropped up at colleges around the United States since 2004, the Maryland facility was established with the blessing, and the money, of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese government continues to give it about $100,000 in financial support annually, and to pay the instructors from China who teach there. Such arrangements allow colleges to provide a lot more instruction and programming related to China. …

Other colleges have heard protests from Chinese officials over plans to let the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual and cultural leader, speak on their campuses. Although the University of Washington played host to the Dalai Lama over Chinese objections in 2008, it came under fire for taking steps to ensure that he would not be asked questions dealing with the autonomy of Tibet or China’s crackdown on unrest there. In Canada, the University of Calgary’s decision to award an honorary degree to the Dalai Lama last year was followed by its removal from the Chinese government’s list of universities it classifies as accredited.

Since the first Confucius Institute in the United States was established here at Maryland, in late 2004, however, there have been no complaints of the institutes’ getting in the way of academic freedom on American campuses or of Chinese officials’ using their government’s financial support for the institutes as leverage to get American colleges to squelch speech they oppose. …

The Confucius Institutes are distinct, however, both in their tendency to be housed within universities and in the degree to which they are financed and managed by a foreign government. Hanban is overseen by officials of a long list of national ministries, including those of education, culture, commerce, and foreign affairs.

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