The 30 Confucius Institutes in the UK are “not a form of ‘soft power’”, but rather are “formally part” of the propaganda system of the Chinese Communist Party, a new report has said.
The report, by the Henry Jackson Society, details that the centres are “financially dependent upon funding from the Chinese Government and, in general, are subject to People’s Republic of China speech restrictions”.
The pro modern liberal democracy think-tank says that Confucius Institutes – which in the UK have received £33,426,300 in funding from Chinese sources – “engage in activities far beyond the remit of ‘language and culture’”.
Authors found that only four of the 30 centres were “sticking entirely to language and culture”, and called on the government to introduce measures to remove Confucius Institutes from British universities.
“Bodies overseen by the CCP should have no place in higher education in the UK. The CCP and the Western academy hold opposite values. Any partnership between the two is unsustainable and degrading,” the report said.
“Operating from under the umbrella of prestigious universities, Confucius Institutes have been informing government policy and politicians, assisting the establishment of science and technology partnerships, offering consultancy services to business, promoting trade, [and] running academic events supposed to shine a light on Chinese policy,” it added.
The centres have also cooperated with UK organisations working with the CCP agency, the United Front Work Department, which was recently highlighted by MI5.
The new report said that the UK should also provide £5 million for UK universities to allocate to China studies and bolstering knowledge regarding China’s presence in the UK, and begin working with other Mandarin-speaking countries such as Taiwan to develop new programs.
Members of parliament in the UK have recently pushed for Taiwan “to play a bigger role in teaching Mandarin in the UK”.
They have also – notably former PM hopeful, Rishi Sunak – called for Confucius Institutes to be “phased-out”, following similar moves in the US, Japan, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark.
The report noted that legislation passed in Australia during 2020 was expected to impact Confucius Institutes in the country, but no university-based centres have yet been closed.
A report earlier this year said the institutes were a “risk” to “academic freedom and student welfare”, but it stopped short of calling for their closure in Australia.
“There is no good reason for which the UK ought to put its higher education sector at risk”
Henry Jackson Society added that the UK should amend its Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill – currently in the Committee stage in the House of Lords – in order to demand “academic partnerships with foreign powers preserve the freedom of speech and comply with equality legislation”.
“There is no good reason for which a country such as the UK ought to put its higher education sector at risk by being dependant on a foreign government for the teaching of a major world language,” the paper concluded.
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