Australia takes aim at Confucius Institutes

reedak

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1. Australian universities face having their controversial Confucius Institutes shut down within months, with the University of Sydney among the first to submit contracts for scrutiny under the Commonwealth’s foreign veto scheme (as reported by this article on May 10, 2021).

At least one centre - RMIT University’s Chinese Medicine Confucius Institute - will close this year, with the university saying it would cease operations due to budget pressures caused by COVID-19.

The institutes, which are hosted by 13 Australian universities in partnership with Chinese universities, have come under scrutiny from the federal government amid concerns they function as a plank of the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda effort.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne last month warned “further decisions” were forthcoming as she exercised new veto powers to terminate Victoria’s controversial Belt and Road agreement with China, as well as two education agreements made by the state government - one with Iran and one with Syria.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Senator Payne would decide whether to cancel the institute contracts on a “case-by-case basis”, but all 13 Australian universities were expected to register the contracts for review by the June 10 deadline.

“Universities are required to notify all existing arrangements with foreign governments that fall within the scope of the scheme, including where they relate to Confucius Institutes,” the spokesman said.

At least four – the University of Sydney, Victoria University, University of Queensland, and the University of WA – have already lodged their contracts with the department for review.

The other universities, which include the University of Melbourne, Latrobe, and UNSW, said they intended to submit the arrangements by the June deadline. Adelaide University said it was still in discussions with the federal government about whether its institute was captured by the laws.

Under the foreign veto laws, passed in December, Ms Payne has the power to cancel agreements between foreign governments and Australian states, territories and universities that are found to contradict Australia’s foreign policy.

Confucius Institutes teach mostly non-degree courses on Chinese culture and language, and sometimes hold public events on political, social and economic issues. But as Australia-China relations have deteriorated, universities have been forced into an increasingly defensive position over their decision to host the centres....

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/fed...-closure-under-veto-laws-20210423-p57lvo.html

2. Most countries have established agencies devoted to "public diplomacy" or "culture promotion" around the world. A good example is the British Council which is a British organisation specialising in international cultural and educational opportunities. It works in over 100 countries: promoting a wider knowledge of the United Kingdom and the English language (and the Welsh language in Argentina); encouraging cultural, scientific, technological and educational cooperation with the United Kingdom. The following are other well-known examples:

The United States Information Agency (USIA), which operated from 1953 to 1999, was previously known overseas as the United States Information Service (USIS).

Alliance française is an international organization that aims to promote the French language and francophone culture around the world. Created in Paris on 21 July 1883, its primary concern is teaching French as a second language and is headquartered in Paris. In 2014, the Alliance has 850 centres in 137 countries.

The Goethe Institute is a non-profit German cultural association operational worldwide with 159 institutes, promoting the study of the German language abroad and encouraging international cultural exchange and relations. Around 246,000 people take part in these German courses per year.

The Japan Foundation (国際交流基金, Kokusai Kōryū Kikin) was established in 1972 by an Act of the National Diet as a special legal entity to undertake international dissemination of Japanese culture, and became an Independent Administrative Institution under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 1 October 2003 under the "Independent Administrative Institution Japan Foundation Law.

Like the above government-backed agencies, the Confucius Institute was established to promote the study of the Chinese language abroad and encouraging international cultural exchange and relations. However, the agency is targeted by the US and its allies simply because of its backing by the Chinese government. They forget the fact they have also established their own agencies worldwide.

Poor Confucius (551–479 BCE)! If he is still living today, he would certainly get the shock of his life to find himself accused of being linked to communism.

What moral value can we learn from the Confucius Institute saga? Anybody (including Australia's Prime Scott John Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne) could be accused of having undesirable ties with some doctrines 2,000 or 3,000 years later. This is not surprising at all. Even the Almighty God (Jehovah) could not escape the fate of having His name linked to the "absurd teachings" of a cult (Jehovah's Witnesses).

3. Continuity in language and culture is deeply rooted in Chinese history even during periods of anarchy, turmoil and civil wars. For instance, during periods of countless calamities in the greater part of the first half of the 20th century, Chinese mainland's nationals and their overseas counterparts built private schools of their own volition to keep the continuity of the Chinese language and culture.

Like the countries in the above-mentioned examples, the Chinese government should keep its worldwide agency specialising in international cultural and educational opportunities, promoting a wider knowledge of China and the Chinese language, and encouraging cultural, scientific, technological and educational cooperation between China and other countries.

Such an agency can simply be called “Chinese Council” or “China Foundation” instead of Confucius Institute. At least, Confucius can rest in peace, knowing that he won't be accused of having any link to a doctrine he had never invented. 😇

In order not to give any chance to China’s enemies to cause further trouble, it is better not to establish any relation between the Chinese language agency and foreign universities. The tradition of Chinese building their own private Chinese schools, institutions and educational agencies wherever they live must be kept alive.

4. As a parting shot, I compose the following Chinese poem for our China's friend Down Under:

请问澳洲魔里森
为何贵国闹孔慌
老孔不是救世主
他也不是恶魔王
不会带君上天堂
也不拉君下地狱
但会医治魔里心
也会驱除心里魔


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