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Confucius Institutes and espionage

Xi Jinping, China's president, attends a joint news conference with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, unseen, at the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. Xi signed agreements today to boost economic cooperation and defense ties with Malaysia as U.S. President Barack Obama scrapped his tour of the region. Photographer: Goh Seng Chong/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Xi Jinping

“Chinese Confucius Institutes are suspected of espionage” – such headlines graced news articles a couple of years ago, but the reality is that everyone knows about it, but it’s impossible to prove. In this article I will explain the role of these institutes as an instrument of Beijing’s soft power.

The Chinese Confucius Institute is an establishment similar to the British Council, German Goethe Institute or French Institute – it teaches language, furthers cultural communications and offers student exchange. However, for quite a while now China’s schemes in the West have attracted increased suspicion and the Confucius Institutes are viewed as a cover for China’s far-reaching espionage activities.

A network of education and intercultural ties or a network of Chinese communist spies – this question is being asked increasingly often in the West regarding China’s Confucius Institute program that was launched in 2004. Since then, more than 500 institutes have been opened in over 140 countries. The US is home to 100 of these institutes with over 500 classes, and they are considered quite popular. Students praise the interesting lectures and pleasant atmosphere. There is one such institute in Latvia as well which has found home under the roof of the University of Latvia, where it supplements the Asian Studies program and seeks those who wish to learn Chinese and study in China.

However, many Western politicians believe that the Chinese Confucius Institutes are not what they present themselves to be. For instance, senator from Florida and former presidential candidate Marco Rubio began opposing them several years ago, explaining that, unlike the German Goethe Institute, the British Council or the Dante Alighieri Society, the Confucius Institutes infiltrate universities and campuses, which casts doubt on academic freedom and the extent of the Chinese Communist Party’s political influence. He said that the Pentagon and most US politicians are only now opening their eyes to the real implications of these programs and the way they are being used, adding that they have no place in America. Rubio believes they are being used to identify students who have the potential to, intentionally or unintentionally, become China’s agents of influence. “It’s a new world we’re living in. A lot of the stuff sounds like Hollywood. But I wouldn’t waste my time on it if it wasn’t real,” Rubio expressed.

I will add that the US isn’t the only one investigating these institutes – Australia, the UK and other European countries have done so as well. However, university staff and the students themselves most often call these suspicions unfounded: “No one has ever told me what I can or cannot say. When people ask about my experience in China, I always say the truth!” a female student revealed.

In 2011, a Confucius Institute was opened in Latvia as well, helping several hundred Latvian students learn Chinese. Director of the institute and professor at the University of Latvia Pēteris Pildegovičs expressed that he doesn’t believe these institutes exert political influence in Latvia or the US.

Latvia isn’t a popular destination for Chinese students and there are less than a hundred of them in our educational institution. To compare, there are roughly 350 thousand Chinese students in the US, while there are only 20 thousand American students in China.

My experience researching Chinese foreign policy leads me to believe that Beijing is in no rush. Beijing’s end goal is to achieve long-term dominance not only in Asia, but also elsewhere in the world. And even if in Latvia, in contrast to the US, Germany, France and Russia, the institutes are able to engage only a couple hundred students, it doesn’t mean that China doesn’t have a special plan for influencing public opinion in Latvia. China has become more active during the Covid-19 pandemic by buying advertisements – physical and in different media – to inform Latvians about developments in China and Beijing’s views on global events.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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jpthiran
March 3, 2021

…obviously…espionage and bribery/corruption…all that comes from Chinese Communist Partly is endlessly sinister and it’s to reject…

Ozymandias
Ozymandias
Reply to  jpthiran
March 3, 2021

The Chinese are kinda amateurs when comes to espionage,perhaps you are a gen z kid who perhaps does’nt know about US mass surviellance as revealed by Edward Snowden,or about the various neocon think tanks and the dodgy George Soros financed societies,it may well be you have been living under a rock,and therefore ignorant of these facts..

Last edited 1 month ago by Ozymandias
jpthiran
Reply to  Ozymandias
March 4, 2021

you are just forgetting a small detail…Chinese Communist Partly is a dictatorship and a specially sinister and brutal one that is spying and terrorizing its own population in a scale never seen in the history of human kind and is the biggest explorer of slave work in the all times!…and i don’t want to see any of that in the western world…just would like to remember that your comments in China, if they would not please the government could entitle you with a bullet in the head!…is that what you want for yourself?..

jdd
jdd
Reply to  jpthiran
March 5, 2021

How many lies can you pack into a single paragraph? China is a booming nation of 1.4 billion people that has lifted 850 million people out of poverty by investing in the most modern infrastructure. Those now screaming about “Western values’ and democracy are doing nothing to prevent what is looming as the greatest humanitarian catastrophe in modern times in Yemen. while the US pursues endless wars, and collapsing infrastructure. All while China, through the Belt and Road Initiative, is exporting that model to the developing sector by building ports, railways, dams, industries and development corridors. Perhaps Mike Pompeo or… Read more »

Ozymandias
Ozymandias
Reply to  jpthiran
March 7, 2021

So you want to go on Crusade and convert the infidels to our way of life??,oh wait,we did,for 20yrs on the war on terror,how many did that work out?,it left the once most powerful nation on earth(USA) broke,so now after failing to defeat primitive tribesmen in Aghanistan,armed with only ancient soviet ak 47s,you now want the West to stick it to China,that ship has sailed my friend,China is now far too powerful..

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March 4, 2021

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March 3, 2021
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WaveDancer
WaveDancer
March 3, 2021

Absolutely nothing what you see from China is what it looks like! There is always a hidden purpose of it! China has a 6000 years old tradition of deception, spying, lies and brainwashing their slaves. I’d not trust any Chinese, there culture does not know honesty and integrity!

Sean
Sean
Reply to  WaveDancer
March 3, 2021

And you know all this….how?

Ozymandias
Ozymandias
Reply to  WaveDancer
March 3, 2021

Yes,a civilisation created when our ancestors lived in mud huts or caves,what utter tosh you are spouting..

Luka-The-K9
Luka-The-K9
March 3, 2021

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Madeleine de Cock Buning was (almost) as good as Goebbels.

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They have a real global kabal of criminals.

From one end of Europe to the other they have threatened journalists with physical

violence and loss of job.

Bust WIDE OPEN.

Sean
Sean
March 3, 2021

Bs! Why is the Duran publishing this nonsense? Have you gone over completely to the dark side?

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ElizabethStout
March 3, 2021

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March 3, 2021

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Beatus
March 3, 2021

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March 4, 2021

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Sanction the Axis of Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Georgia

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