US professors urge Western universities to end ties to China’s Confucius Institutes

In a serious blow to China’s soft-power outreach, a leading association of American professors warns that Confucius Institutes break basic standards on academic freedom

Chinese soft-power diplomacy has suffered a major rebuke after the leading association of American university professors accused China’s network of Confucius Institutes of flouting basic rules of academic freedom and integrity.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) called for agreements between Confucius Institutes and nearly 100 universities to be either cancelled or renegotiated so that they properly reflected Western values of free speech.

“Confucius Institutes function as an arm of the Chinese state and are allowed to ignore academic freedom,” the AAUP said in a statement, urging US universities to “cease their involvement” with the institutes unless major reforms are instituted.

China’s network of 300 Confucius Institutes – including 11 branches in on British university campuses – can be a lucrative source of funds for universities but are exempt from many of the basic rules government academic discourse.

They are designed to project a favourable image of China’s ruling Communist Party around the world through language and cultural programmes, but are allowed to restrict discussions of topics unpalatable to China’s ruling Communist Party such as the occupation of Tibet.

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