Voice of America (VOA) recently reported that China is using funding for the Confucius Institutes to exert pressure on western universities. Since 2004, China has established around 350 Confucius Institutes around the globe. These Institutes are generally viewed as a channel for China to exercise its “soft power.” However, when China offered to spend US$3 million to create a Confucius Institute at Stanford University in 2009, a condition was that “sensitive topics” such as the Tibet issue would have to be blocked. Stanford refused the condition. The University of North Carolina had a similar experience when the Dalai Lama was invited to the university to give a speech. In the end the university gave in.
The report pointed out that the function of the Confucius Institute is supposed to be to teach the Chinese language and Chinese culture, but some Chinese government officials have suggested that the Confucius Institute is an important channel to make use of China’s "soft" power.
Source: Voice of America, November 13, 2011