Many countries around the world have expressed concern about China’s growing influence on international academic campuses. Beijing’s Confucius Institutes, by investing heavily overseas to promote the study of the Chinese language and culture, are viewed as China’s move to increase its soft power.” According to the National Association of Scholars (NAS), there were 103 Confucius Institutes in the U.S. in 2017. As of July 9, the number had dropped to 41, with several schools set to close later this year or next.
This year, Taiwan started to explore the international Chinese language teaching market more actively. The Overseas Community Affairs Council under the Executive Yuan of Taiwan announced in June that it would set up 20 “Taiwan Chinese Language Learning Centers” in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and other countries in the hope of promoting the Chinese language. Seventeen of these will be in the U.S.
Since last year. the U.S. has been seeking to expand the platform for learning Chinese. Last December, the U.S. and Taiwan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on international education cooperation and launched the “U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative.”
In March of this year, twenty-one Republican members of the U.S. Congress wrote a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Education to consider using a program with Taiwan to offer “censorship-free alternatives” to the China-backed Confucius Institutes on many U.S. college campuses.
Taiwan’s representative in the U.S., Hsiao Bi-khim, said in an interview, “The learning environment in Taiwan (Centers) is different from that in the Confucius Institutes. The biggest difference is that we are in a free space. There will be no government to influence or challenge personal freedom in this regard due to the issue of speech.”
Source: BBC Chinese, August 13, 2021