There are currently several hundred Confucius Institutes around the world dedicated to promoting Chinese language and culture. The first opened in Seoul, South Korea in 2004. In Germany alone, 19 centers have since opened their doors to China enthusiasts. Mandarin is also taught in the UK in 30 branches of the organization. But now British politicians want to reduce Beijing’s influence in these educational institutions on the island.
According to a report in the British newspaper The Guardians A cross-party group of MPs is said to hold talks with Taipei to replace Beijing-backed Chinese language teachers in the UK with Taiwanese staff.
The Confucius Institutes are run jointly by the respective UK university, its Chinese partner university and the Beijing-based Chinese International Education Foundation (CIEF). Funding for the project between 2015 and 2024 is estimated at £27 million (around $31 million). This is the result of calculations by the “China Research Group”, one group British Conservative MP examining how Britain should respond to China’s rising power.
But now London wants according to the Guardiansreport diverting these funds to alternative programs, including those from Taiwan. The group of MPs from all British parties now holding talks with Taipei about providing Chinese teachers included prominent Tory MP Alicia Kearns, a former Defense Ministry staffer, according to the newspaper.
As recently as 2014, then Education Minister and now new British Prime Minister Liz Truss praised the Confucius Institute. At the time, she said the project had made “great strides” in the UK and would create “a strong Mandarin infrastructure” in the country.
However, given the recent cooling in UK-China relations and London’s massive support for the self-governing island of Taiwan, which Chinese authorities consider part of their own territory, the Beijing-backed program has since come under increasing scrutiny politics moved.
Critics have accused the Confucius Institute of lacking freedom of speech in the classroom, promoting Beijing’s agenda and even being used for espionage.
In a recent report in the British daily newspaper Times it was said that new Prime Minister Liz Truss planned to name China an “imminent threat” to the United Kingdom. This would put the People’s Republic in the same category as Russia. Truss had previously branded Chinese tech giants like Huawei as a security risk and called for more weapons to be sent to Taipei.
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