US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday again that he wants all the Confucius Classrooms and Institutes in the US shut down by the end of the year. He claimed the program is "an important element of the Chinese Communist Party's global influence campaign," and that it has allowed the "Chinese Communist Party government to take up a physical presence in the halls" of US schools.
Pompeo has repeatedly expressed his hope to have all Confucius Institutes closed. Pushed by radical US politicians represented by Pompeo and government measures such as the National Defense Authorization Act, the number of Confucius Institutes has declined from over 100 to just over 60. Thirty-nine American schools have stopped their cooperation projects with Confucius Institutes since 2019. Analysts familiar with the operations of US universities believe that as many US colleges are state-run or private, and not under the jurisdiction of the federal government, it's quite difficult for the US to shut down all Confucius Institutes by the end of the year. But it's also hard to reverse the declining trend.
The crackdown on Confucius Institutes is a manifestation of the rapid decline of US confidence. The Confucius Institutes teach US students Chinese, and help them understand Chinese culture. The fact that the institutes sprouted in American colleges and universities in a short period of time is driven by the explosive demand of Americans to learn the Chinese language. There was a period that US schools contacted the Center for Language Education and Cooperation of the Ministry of Education of China almost every day, and asked for Confucius Institutes on their campuses. The high number of the institutes in the US is not a result of China's promotion.
China does not plan to launch an ideological offensive against the US and the West. Does China want to alter the US political system, or reshape the US values system? No organization or institute in China has ever designed such plans or taken action to do so, and this has never been a topic in Chinese society. Hundreds of millions of Chinese students are learning English, but China doesn't take English language culture as a threat. If the Chinese people really hope to influence the Americans, what they want is to eliminate some of the misunderstandings US society has about China and increase Americans' goodwill as well as the friendship between the two countries.
Incredibly, in the eyes of radical US politicians, efforts to promote Americans' understanding of China and friendship are an attack on US ideology and an attempt to interfere in freedom of speech and thought. They believe only Chinese acts that help fuel US society's bias and hostility against China show respect for US politics and culture, and the Confucius Classrooms should be a "free place" to denounce China. How overbearing, self-centered, arrogant and prejudiced their logic is!
Radical ruling political elites have poisoned the atmosphere that bred the Confucius Institutes. As mentioned above, the setup of Confucius Institutes was not at China's demand, but was driven by the Americans' need to learn Chinese as a result of gigantic economic and social exchanges between China and the US. With or without the Confucius Institutes, the US needs to learn Putonghua and acquire more knowledge about China, as the country is becoming stronger. The institutes are often built with teachers and volunteers offered by the Chinese side, and venues and management provided by the US side. American education institutions will have to spend more money to replenish teachers if all Chinese teachers and volunteers are driven away. In the end, the US will suffer more losses. Politicizing the Confucius Institutes has a cost.
Washington wants to use the closure of the Confucius Institutes as a bargaining chip, asking Beijing to allow it to open more education institutions in China. As we all know, the US wants to politically subvert non-Western countries, and Washington has made no secret of this. In the turbulence that has occurred in various parts of the world, US diplomatic and cultural institutions there often played an active role. This is an open secret.
China and the US are not on an equal footing in their ideological relations. Chinese cultural elements that have entered the US and had an influence are greatly dwarfed by US movies, dramas, publications and cultural symbols that have had access to the Chinese market and infiltrated Chinese campuses and public life.
The US crackdown on Confucius Institutes is crucial for the US to overthrow the past China-US relations. Coupled with the needs of the US presidential election, it's no surprise that Pompeo has constantly made an issue of the Confucius Institutes. China might sit idly and let the strong US demands for Confucius Institutes battle radical politicians. We have no other choice, but this is our rationality.