The Nikkei Asian newspaper reported on June 6 that the Japanese government will conduct a review of Confucius Institutes at its domestic universities, and that partner universities are expected to provide authorities with information on the program’s funding sources, the number of students and whether it interferes with academic research by the end of the year.
The report said Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology will ask universities hosting Confucius Institutes to provide information such as funding, the number of students involved and whether they interfere with university research. A list of relevant questions will be formalized by the end of this year. In addition to concerns about the spread of Chinese government propaganda, Tokyo is also worried that technology could be leaked to the Chinese side through personal communication. On the issue of Confucius Institutes, Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Koichi Hagiota said, “There are increasing efforts to seek more information or abolish these institutions in countries that share common values, such as the United States and Europe.”
“I urge information disclosure to improve transparency in the management of organizations and research projects,” said Kouichi Hagita. China began establishing Confucius Institutes around the world in 2004. It now has about 500 Confucius Institutes in about 160 countries and regions around the world. In Japan, 14 private universities, including Waseda University and Ritsumeikan University, have Confucius Institutes on their campuses. At a Senate meeting in May this year, a Liberal Democratic Party member of the Japanese Senate, Hajiko Arimura, noted that Confucius Institutes are “considered a security threat by other countries. She then proposed that the relevant ministries and agencies of the Japanese government should cooperate in monitoring Confucius Institutes.
An official at a private university in the Greater Tokyo area told the newspaper that China had asked the university to establish a Confucius Institute, but it was refused. From an administrative standpoint, having a Confucius Institute on campus can be beneficial because it tends to create a pipeline of international students from partner institutions in China. But the official added, “If we do research on Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, we may be disturbed.” It noted that the university he works for has also considered the possibility that funding from the Chinese side could stop if it establishes an exchange program with schools in Taiwan.
In recent years, Confucius Institutes within many U.S. and European countries have been under increasing scrutiny, and their numbers have been on the decline. In the United States, for example, the number of Confucius Institutes on U.S. campuses fell from more than 100 in 2017 to 47 as of May of this year.