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mungouk

Confucius Institutes / Hanban "re-brand"

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mungouk

SCMP reports that Confucius Institutes and/or Hanban are being re-branded to some kind of centre for “language exchange and cooperation”.

 

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In a directive to lower-level agencies, the Ministry of Education said the Confucius Institute Headquarters, or Hanban, had changed its name to the Ministry of Education Centre for Language Education and Cooperation.

 

Snappy name!  MECLEC...?

 

 

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∞保罗∞

Jesus Mungouk - That new name is designed to never be remembered!

 

There is a fantastic 孔子学院 in Dublin, on the UCD university campus. I’ve never come across anything like the accusations being leveled against them and had contact with that institute for more than 10 years 2 of my daughters studied there and I’ve done the night classes.

 

Do you guys think the stuff from US/Sweden has any merit at all? I honestly find it very hard to believe - there Is a major cultural aspect to learning Chinese, but there is nothing malicious in what the Confucius Institute does in my experience. I have only had positive interactions with them, the teachers are really supportive, and I feel bad that they have to go and Rebrand to some stupid name as if they have done something wrong for no real reason.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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mungouk
23 hours ago, ∞保罗∞ said:

That new name is designed to never be remembered!

 

Well I was joking of course... Hanban is a contraction of something like 汉语 …… 办公室 so maybe the new commonly-used name will come out as some new combination of Putonghua syllables.

 

23 hours ago, ∞保罗∞ said:

 I honestly find it very hard to believe

 

Personally I have no experience of any issues, but it seems there's a pretty lengthy Wikipedia page on Criticism of Confucius Institutes if you're interested.

 

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艾墨本
On 7/5/2020 at 6:21 AM, ∞保罗∞ said:

Do you guys think the stuff from US/Sweden has any merit at all? I honestly find it very hard to believe - there Is a major cultural aspect to learning Chinese, but there is nothing malicious in what the Confucius Institute does in my experience. I have only had positive interactions with them, the teachers are really supportive, and I feel bad that they have to go and Rebrand to some stupid name as if they have done something wrong for no real reason.

 

 

Don’t take our word for it, make use of your language skills! Look up the leaders of CI/Handan and read papers they have published on the topic (中国知网). Whether or not you have anecdotal experience of criticism of systemic issues is less important than the intention of the institutes as a whole. 

 

http://wap.cnki.net/touch/web/Journal/Article/YYZC201702003.html

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艾墨本

Official announcement came from Handan: http://www.hanban.org/article/2020-07/05/content_810091.htm

 

I’ve copied it here and have added a few comments. It’s pretty straight forward and should be doable with a word-by-word translation using pleco’s clipboard reader.

 

中外语言交流合作中心设立公告

    [来源] 语言交流合作中心     [发表时间] 2020-07-05 13:07:27 
 

为适应国际中文教育事业发展需求,教育部设立中外语言交流合作中心 (The shift in name to emphasize language over the often politicized Confucius also more clearly sets the scope of the org to language only),简称语言合作中心 (I’ve already seen one person further shorten this to 语合)。

语言合作中心为中国教育部直属事业单位,是发展国际中文教育事业的专业公益教育机构,致力于为世界各国民众学习中文、了解中国提供优质的服务,为中外语言交流合作、世界多元文化互学互鉴搭建友好协作的平台。(despite claims that CI are for cultural exchange, note that it limits this exchange to language exchange only. I take the 互学(互相学习)  to be a nice addition, but have never seen CI actively work to help Chinese people better understand the foreign cultures and bring those ideas and cultures back to China. 

语言合作中心具体负责统筹建设国际中文教育资源体系,参与制定国际中文教育相关标准并组织实施;支持国际中文教师、教材、学科等建设和学术研究;组织实施国际中文教师考试、外国人中文水平系列考试,开展相关评估认定;运行国际中文教育相关品牌项目;组织开展中外语言交流合作等。( In line with what I’ve said above, it lists altogether 12 task, only one of which is “language exchange” despite the name of the organization being this. Additionally, exchange is placed at the end which often implies less important (see lists of government officials names). 中心网站将于近期上线运行,欢迎访问。

孔子学院品牌将由“中国国际中文教育基金会”全面负责运行。该基金会是由多家高校、企业等发起成立的民间公益组织,将会同孔子学院中外方合作伙伴,(I’m finding this bit interesting in that they have corporate sponsors now. I have to wonder who they are and under what context they sponsored this. Is it going to be a bunch of textbook companies vying for their books to be used globally or companies that are claiming to do it out of the interest of the world (like a bank or alibaba) which would make me ponder if they had or a choice or are just looking to score political points. Alternatively, this may be an attempt to prove CI’s aren’t a government entity. Though, just to be clear, they are a government entity.) 继续支持全球孔子学院发展。有关孔子学院相关事宜可通过电子邮箱[email protected]与其联系。

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Lu
On 7/5/2020 at 12:21 AM, ∞保罗∞ said:

Do you guys think the stuff from US/Sweden has any merit at all? I honestly find it very hard to believe - there Is a major cultural aspect to learning Chinese, but there is nothing malicious in what the Confucius Institute does in my experience. I have only had positive interactions with them, the teachers are really supportive, and I feel bad that they have to go and Rebrand to some stupid name as if they have done something wrong for no real reason.

Not every CI is the same, a lot depends on who is running it. Sometimes it's really over the top (there was an incident in Portugal where the Chinese director of the local CI had the first page ripped out of booklets because it also had the sponsorship of a Taiwanese institute, I forgot the details but it was really ridiculous), often there's no problem at all (CI gives language classes and organises or sponsors some cultural projects), but there is always the political background noise. The CI in Leiden sponsored all kinds of interesting cultural things, but you wouldn't even think of asking them to sponsor something that was not 100% in line with the political direction in China. Everyone in China circles accepts this as a normal reality, but imagine a Goethe-Institut official diplomatically informing you (not in writing of course) that it's better if you don't ask them for funding to stage a certain German play in your city because it's critical of Angela Merkel or the German policy on refugees.

 

And that whole 'the teachers in language classes don't tell us about Tian'anmen' is on one hand of course a bit silly: you're learning to talk about 你家有几口人 and 你是哪国人, political history is simply not the subject. But the problem is not that the teacher isn't talking about it, the problem is that she's not supposed/allowed to talk about it.

 

Like you, I've only ever had positive interactions with the CI. But I am very much aware of the boundaries we're not supposed to cross.

 

ETA: The incident with the page ripped out of booklets was in Portugal, not France. See here.

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roddy
On 7/4/2020 at 11:21 PM, ∞保罗∞ said:

Do you guys think the stuff from US/Sweden has any merit at all? I honestly find it very hard to believe - there Is a major cultural aspect to learning Chinese, but there is nothing malicious in what the Confucius Institute does in my experience.

I have zero experience, but I can understand the nervousness. I don't think there's any other country that tries to embed itself in overseas universities in the same way, and the first one to do so is... China?

 

Bear in mind China could easily have set up a chain of British Council / Cervantes Institute type language and cultural shops independent of universities and avoided all this extra hassle. Logically, they expected some extra benefit from not doing so.  

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Moshen
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Personally I have no experience of any issues, but it seems there's a pretty lengthy Wikipedia page on Criticism of Confucius Institutes if you're interested.

 

Thanks for this link.  This is a really detailed and on the whole balanced and objective account of the controversies.

 

 

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realmayo
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In classical Chinese statecraft there are two tools for gaining and maintaining control over “the mountains and the rivers”: The first is wu (weapons, violence - 武) and the second is wen (language, culture - 文). 

 

Chinese leaders have always believed that power derives from controlling both the physical battlefield and the cultural domain. You can’t sustain physical power without discursive power. Wu and wen go hand-in-hand. 

 

 

From John Garnaut via Bill Bishop here.

Garnaut has been quoted criticising Confucius Institutes themselves in the past.

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NinjaTurtle

My university in Arizona USA just had the CI institute removed from its campus. I guess this is quite a trend right now.

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mungouk

It's been a trend for the last couple of years in the US, by the look of it.

 

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About two dozen American universities have closed the Chinese government-funded centers over the past two years.

 

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/01/21/missouri-closes-confucius-institute-after-running-afoul-visa-rules

 

 

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Jan Finster
10 hours ago, realmayo said:

Chinese leaders have always believed that power derives from controlling both the physical battlefield and the cultural domain. You can’t sustain physical power without discursive power. Wu and wen go hand-in-hand. 

 

Actually this is more true for the USA than for China. Especially, but not only the physical battlefield part. We largely live in an Americanised world. Since many of us come from the West, we may not be aware of it, but the cultural pressure the West and the USA in particular exude, is immense. I know quite a few countries struggle to maintain their indigenous culture because they are overrun by Hollywood, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Game of Thrones, etc.

I am not trying to go off topic here, but I believe it is only natural that any national education cultural system is staying true to its system. If such an organisation should be affiliated with universities is questionable. On a personal note, if I knew an organisation behaved in this fashion, I probably would not use it, if it made me uncomfortable. Equally, if I were to learn Arabic, I would not learn it at a fundamentalist Islamic organisation.

At the same time, what is the point of having a watered down version of China at the CI and then to go to China and be confronted with reality. 

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mungouk
12 hours ago, Lu said:

But I am very much aware of the boundaries we're not supposed to cross.

 

21 minutes ago, Jan Finster said:

what is the point of having a watered down version of China at the CI and then to go to China and be confronted with reality. 

 

There's an interesting point in there... how do you learn about the boundary markers unless someone tells you about them?  Which isn't going to happen in a CI.

 

Yes, it's important to learn the boundary markers if you ever plan to visit/work in China, but I guess most people learn about them indirectly and by observing how colleagues and peers deal with them and self-censor where appropriate.  At least, this is how it worked for me in Singapore (which is a lot more oppressive than you might imagine).

 

Working in Beijing I was "reminded" by an overseas-born Chinese colleague not to discuss the "Three T's" but that was pretty obvious to me.  I've since heard there are now four of them (Trade War being the latest), and I suppose it should really be Four T's and an X by now.

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Lu
8 minutes ago, mungouk said:

I've since heard there are now four of them (Trade War being the latest), and I suppose it should really be Three T's and an X by now.

And the FLG, let's not forget them.

 

8 minutes ago, mungouk said:

Yes, it's important to learn the boundary markers if you ever plan to visit/work in China, but I guess most people learn about them indirectly and by observing how colleagues and peers observe them and self-censor where appropriate.

People who want funding from a CI are usually well-versed enough in things Chinese to know where the boundaries lie and have reason to abide by them. Beginner students are not and do not, and I'm sure many an uncomfortable moment (or hour) has been spent with stubborn students trying to get their teacher to talk about something she didn't want to talk about. From what I hear, CI teachers get instructions on how to dodge such questions.

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Moshen
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Yes, it's important to learn the boundary markers if you ever plan to visit/work in China, but I guess most people learn about them indirectly and by observing how colleagues and peers observe them and self-censor where appropriate.

 

RIght, it's not just those associated with CI who respect those boundaries.  Take a look at the range of topics in The Chairman's Bao, for example.  They cover a lot of lively and interesting topics about contemporary Chinese culture and society but never, never anything remotely controversial.  One of my motives for studying their content is so I can eventually read actual Chinese newspaper articles, including official anti-US or anti-Western editorials.  But since they stay away from anything political I have to learn a lot of that vocabulary and style on my own.

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realmayo
1 hour ago, Jan Finster said:

Actually this is more true for the USA than for China.

 

Asking how you think a comparison is valid would derail the thread and might also derange it.

 

1 hour ago, Jan Finster said:

I believe it is only natural that any national education cultural system is staying true to its system. If such an organisation should be affiliated with universities is questionable.

 

Yes - perhaps the main point is that if a (say) American university provides its Chinese tuition through a CI, then students would be getting a Chinese education, not an American one, and if the presence of the CI provides monetary value to the university that influence might naturally end up extending into other departments too. It's the "outsourcing" that seems questionable to me - I have no problem with foreigners getting a China-style education in China, because learning Chinese in a university in China can be very cool indeed. And Chinese universities might have the same, legitimate complaints if they outsourced English language teaching to the Peace Corps or a group of, say, Mormons (I don't know enough about either group to know if that's a fair comparison).

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