China’s Confucius Institutes have been investing heavily overseas to promote foreigners being able to learn Chinese and Chinese culture. It is viewed as Beijing’s measure to enhance its “soft power.” In recent years, Confucius Institutes have been accused of interfering in academic freedom, conducting intelligence collection and other unwanted tasks. Since 2017, many Confucius Institutes in the U.S. have closed down.
This year, Taiwan began to explore the international Chinese language teaching market very actively. The Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee under the Taiwan Executive Yuan announced in June that it will set up 20 “Taiwan Chinese Language Learning Centers” in the U.S., Great Britain, Germany, France and other countries. Seventeen of them will be in the United States.
According to the statistics from the National Association of Scholars (NAS), in 2017, there were 103 Confucius Institutes in the U.S. As of July 9 of this year, the number had dropped to 41. Many other schools will also close Confucius Institutes later this year or next year.
Last October, the U.S. switched the cover of its official language learning website to the landmark Taipei 101 building in Taiwan. Last December, the U.S. signed the “Taiwan-U.S. Education Initiative” and launched the language teaching cooperation. It also increased the quota of the number of teachers from Taiwan who would teach in the United States.
In March, 21 U.S. congressmen wrote to the Secretary of Education. They stated that, after the U.S. closed Confucius Institutes, there was still a high demand for learning Chinese and Chinese culture. They suggested that the U.S expand Taiwan-U.S. education initiatives. The letter stated that the cooperation between Taiwan and the U.S. in education can limit the influence of communist China and ensure freedom of speech. It will be an alternative option to be used instead of the Confucius Institutes.
Source: BBC, August 13, 2021