With 40 million people learning Mandarin today (according to the Office of Chinese Language Council International), the Confucius Institutes are a key stratagem in Chinese public diplomacy efforts, exerting cultural capital to facilitate people seeing things their way. It even clearly echoes some pretty obvious political alignment. Check out the blurp from their website, and how it sings of the harmonious world -
"Confucius Institute, as a non-profit education organization, devoted to satisfying the demands of people from different countries and regions in the world who learn Chinese language, to enhancing their understanding of the Chinese language and culture, to strengthening educational and cultural exchange and cooperation between China and other countries, to deepening friendly relationships with other nations, to promoting the development of multi-culturalism, and to the building of a harmonious world.
The Confucius Institute Headquarters is a non-profit organization that has the independent status of a corporate body. It owns the proprietorship of the name, logo and brand of the Confucius Institutes. The Headquarters is the regulatory body that provides guidelines to the Confucius Institute worldwide. The Headquarters is located in Beijing in the People’s Republic of China.
The Confucius Institutes shall provide the following services:
a. Develop Chinese language courses for various social sectors;
b. Train Chinese language instructors for local institutions and providing them with Chinese language teaching resources;
c. Establish local facilities for the holding of the HSK Examination (Chinese Proficiency Test) and for the administration of procedures for the Certification of the Chinese Language Teachers;
d. Provide information and consultative services concerning Chinese education, culture, economy and society;
e. Promote research about Contemporary China."
Source - Confucius Institute Online
Date of Access 05 September 2009
And now for the article...
Growing interest in Institute
By Cai Haoxiang
Source - Straits Times 5 September 2009
THERE is growing interest in Chinese-language promotion centre Confucius Institute, which has attracted more than double the number of students in the last two years.
Every week, more than 500 students attend over 20 courses now - up from 200 students who turned up for eight courses two years ago.
The increase is due to keener interest in Chinese language and culture by working professionals, who form three quarters of the students.
Centre director Koh Hock Kiat said people initially mistook the Institute as a place to promote Confucian philosophy.
But that perception has changed in the four years since the Institute was set up in 2005. It moved to Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) one-north campus in Buona Vista two years later.
'We started using a lot of contemporary icons to change people's impressions, like comics and popular living writers,' said Associate Professor Koh.
'Now, they know us as a place for kids, literature and basic Chinese, similar to what the British Council or the Japanese Association offers.'
Still, he said what motivates most people to sign up for its courses is their desire to learn more about the Chinese language for business purposes.
Among the students are Mr Steve Wong, 52, director of management consultancy Synthesis Consulting Group. He is doing a three-month business Chinese programme at the Institute.
'Most Chinese business people in Asia, like Thailand and Indonesia, don't speak much English,' he said. 'To communicate effectively, you really have to know the (Chinese) language.'