confucius institutes project
On November 21, 2004, the first Confucius Institute opened its doors in Seoul, South Korea. The placement was by design, like every aspect of this public diplomacy endeavor by an increasingly confident Chinese government. The Korean peninsula, for example, has a long history of adhering to the Confucian system of thought, society and governance. Even more symbolically, before the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5, Korea was a part of China’s traditional cultural empire. In fact, it was the last part to fall.
The Chinese have been growing their media presence in Africa in recent years as part of a "soft diplomacy" strategy — using culture and information to spread its influence and counter what it views as unfair treatment in global media. A paper on this topic by Yu-Shan Wu at the South African Institute of International Affairs describes soft power, or ruanshili to use the Mandarin term, as an "important instrument to help a state achieve its most desired goal with the least objection".
To increase China's highbrow soft power, the Chinese government could initiate more scholarly exchange programs with other countries, set up more Confucius Institutes abroad, and increase government-sponsored and government-involved people-to-people exchange programs.
As a non-profit public institution, the Confucius Institute links up with worldwide universities, colleges and secondary schools providing teachers and materials for their Chinese education at different levels. The conference, held in the first higher-learning institute established in the Western world in 1088, gathered the heads of 72 Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms from all over Europe. The Old Continent can be considered "mature" for the institution's development, Xu said.
In a 2008 report titled Repackaging Confucius: PRC Public Policy and the Rise of Soft Power, by the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm the C.I. was described as “an image management project, the purpose of which is to promote the greatness of Chinese culture while at the same time counterattacking public opinion which maintains the presence of a ‘China threat’ in the international community.”
The 2006 Beijing action plan provided the first attempt to create institutional-level collaboration through the establishment of Confucius Institutes, although these are also largely organised at the intergovernmental level as part of China’s global ‘soft power’.
The opening of Confucius Institutes this week in New York and Washington brings a key part of China's "soft power" initiative to the United States. On Tuesday, administrators at Columbia University will cut the ribbon to inaugurate the Confucius Institute at the Ivy League school in Manhattan. A day later, it will be George Washington University that does the honors, on a campus within walking distance of the US State Department and blocks away from the White House and Capitol Hill.
The oldest Chinatown in the world is not in New York or San Francisco or even Yokohama. It is in Manila, a fact that comes up often when Beijing talks about its longstanding connection to the islands that lie about 600 miles to the southeast. Similarly, China boasts of its three Confucius Institutes in the Philippines where Filipinos can learn Mandarin and appreciate the many facets of Chinese culture.