The Japanese government recently said it will review Confucius Institutes at universities in Japan due to concerns about Chinese government propaganda measures.
According to a report in the weekly Nikkei Asia, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology will ask universities with which the Confucius Institutes have partnerships to provide the government with a range of information, including funding sources, student numbers, and whether there is any interference with academic research. The list of relevant questions will be officially confirmed by the end of this year.
In addition to protecting academic freedom, Tokyo is also concerned that some technology may be revealed to the Chinese side due to private exchanges, the report noted. Previously, both the United States and Europe have introduced a series of policies to regulate the exchange activities of Confucius Institutes within their borders.
“Countries that share our values, such as the U.S. and Europe, are seeking to abolish Confucius Institutes or require more information,” said Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Koichi Hagiuda, “and I urge disclosure to enhance the management of organizations and research programs in I urge the disclosure of information to enhance transparency in organizational management and research programs. “
Since 2004, China has been promoting Confucius Institutes around the world. There are now nearly 500 Confucius Institutes in 160 countries and regions around the world, and they are an important tool for the Chinese government to expand its “soft power” abroad. In Japan, 14 private universities, including the prestigious Waseda University and Ritsumeikan University, have Confucius Institutes on their campuses.
In addition to Japan, Australian universities will provide their contracts with Confucius Institutes to Canberra for review by the June 10 deadline. A total of 13 private universities in Australia have partnerships with Confucius Institutes.
The Australian Federal Parliament passed the new Foreign Relations Act at the end of 2020, which gives the federal government the power to veto agreements between state and local governments and universities and foreign governments. This means that the Australian Foreign Minister has the power to veto any university’s partnership with the Confucius Institute.
In recent years, the purpose and operation of the Confucius Institute as a program has been questioned by Western academic and political circles.
In the United States, according to the National Association of Scholars, 55 universities and elementary and secondary schools across the country have closed or are closing Confucius Institutes on their campuses since 2014; as of January this year, there were still 63 Confucius Institutes across the country, with two of them planning to close this year.
Beijing insists that the purpose of establishing Confucius Institutes is to spread knowledge of Chinese culture. In a video message to the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations earlier this year, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and director of the Central Committee’s Foreign Affairs Working Committee Office, said he hoped the Biden administration would rescind what he called “unpopular policy measures” such as closing the Confucius Institutes.