View of the Confucius Institute building on the Troy University campus.

View of the Confucius Institute building on the Troy University campus. Kreeder13/Wikimedia Commons

Soft-Power Watch: China's Burgeoning Cultural Institutes in Africa

Despite the fact China is building institutions like those European countries have operated for decades, it is their structure which distinguishes them from their western counterparts.

Government-funded public institutes teaching Chinese language and culture are popping up across the globe as part of a stated push to improve the country’s cultural influence with a focus on “soft power“.

Since 2004 the number of Confucius Institutes in Africa has jumped from zero to 48,  according to the international consulting firm Development Reimagined.

Confucius Institutes are modeled on western cultural institutes such as France’s Institut Français, Germany’s Goethe Institute or the UK’s British Council. Such bodies have operated in Africa since the late 19th and early 20th century . The Alliance Français was established in 1883, the British Council was established in 1934. Despite entering 100 years late in the game, China is now also only second to France when it comes to the number cultural institutes worldwide. 

Confucius Institutes are set up through partnerships between a Chinese university, a host country university and the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban), a language and culture promotion organization under China’s ministry of education. Hanban sends a Chinese director and language and culture instructors. 

Dr. Ishmael Mensah, the local director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, said that the goal of his institute is “to foster a closer collaboration between the Ghanaians and the Chinese”. He said that teaching Mandarin puts young Ghanaians in a “better position to interact with their Chinese peers.” Mensah noted that the classes offered are gaining popularity and teach roughly two thousand students per term at the university. 

Despite the fact China is building institutions like those European countries have operated for decades, it is their structure which distinguishes them from their western counterparts. The host university provides office space, teaching space and institutional support. The lecturers and funding comes from China and the classes are taught in the context of the university’s curriculum.

As a result of this structure—an educational institute funded by a foreign government—they have become particularly controversial in the U.S. where there have been allegations Confucius Institutes are being used to further Chinese government goals and compromising academic integrity. In 2014, University of Chicago refused to renew their contract with Hanban after failed negotiations regarding the content of the program.  In June of that year the American Association of University Professors issued a report urging universities to sever ties with Confucius Institutes unless they could renegotiate contracts guaranteeing the schools’ ability to control academic matters.

But on university campuses in Africa there is less pushback towards these departments. Hanban provides funding and materials, flies over Chinese teachers, and opens new buildings on often under-funded campuses.  Mensah said he sees no conflict of interest between a government-funded institution and academic freedom at the University of Cape Coast.

With regards western concerns that China might have an interest in promoting their view of world history or culture, he said the courses currently don’t focus on history and when it comes to culture the program “focuses on calligraphy, music and dance.”

There are also concerns Confucius Institutes are vulnerable to allowing the Chinese government to completely shape academic engagement with East Asia. While in the United States for example a Confucius Institute will be absorbed into an existing East Asian studies department, in many of the host African universities, the Confucius Institute is the only avenue for East Asian studies at the university.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.