The Confucius Institute is a nonprofit public organization established in 2004 and run by China’s Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban) under the Ministry of Education. Its mission is to promote Chinese language and culture throughout the world.
The Chinese government initiated the Confucius Institute in response to the growing interest in China and the international demand for Chinese language instruction. In this way, it is similar to the U.K.’s British Council and Germany’s Goethe Institute.
After establishing a pilot institute in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in June 2004, the first Confucius Institute opened in November 2004 in Seoul, Korea. Today they are found on every continent (except Antarctica); by 2009, there were 307 Confucius Institutes in seventy-eight countries. The most recent opening was at the University of Costa Rica in November of 2008. The Confucius Institutes often have been formed within existing universities and colleges, although according to the official website this is not a prerequisite. Some are also found in public education settings. Regardless of location, they abide by local laws and regulations and are subject to supervision and inspections from the local educational administrative authorities.
The Ministry of Education estimates that by 2010 there will be approximately 100 million people worldwide learning Chinese as a foreign language; it plans to set up more than one hundred additional Confucius Institutes worldwide, according to Xu Lin, director of the Chinese Language Council International (‘China threat’ countered by culture 2006). The Internet will be used in the future as well: Michigan State University’s Confucius Institute has established a Chinese education island in Second Life, the online “virtual meeting environment.”
Public and institutional reactions to the Confucius Institute vary. There is concern about their sponsorship by the Chinese government, with fears that this could lead to undue influence from Beijing on curricula within Asian studies departments of colleges and universities where the institutes are located. On the other hand, they are being widely adopted throughout the world with the hope of teaching the world about China and ultimately fostering mutual collaboration.
‘China threat’ fear countered by culture. (2006). China Daily. Retrieved February 11, 2009, from http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200605/29/eng20060529_269387.html
China to host second Confucius Institute conference. (2006, December 6). Retrieved February 6, 2009, from http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2007-12/06/content_7212089.htm
Confucius Institute Michigan State University News. (n.d.). Retrieved February 6, 2009, from http://confucius.msu.edu/news.htm
Costa Rica gets Confucius Institute. (2008, November 19). Retrieved February 6, 2009, from http://www.china.org.cn/culture/2008-11/19/content_16788915.htm
Source: The Editors. (2009). Confucius Institutes. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 495–495. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.
Confucius Institutes (Kǒngzǐ Xuéyuàn 孔子学院)|Kǒngzǐ Xuéyuàn 孔子学院 (Confucius Institutes)