Photo: Caves in Kunming/China.
“Small actions that we carry out are better than the great ones we simply plan” – Confucius (Chinese philosopher and political thinker, 551 BC – 479 BC).
Having followed the economic development of China since it began its process of modernization at the end of the ‘70s, in 2006, scholars S. Ding and R.A. Sanders pointed to the status of Chinese cultural power in the 21st century to explain the global demand for Chinese language (Mandarin) education.
On November 21, 2004, the first Confucius Institute (CI) was inaugurated in Seoul, South Korea. Bolstering this initiative, in 2005, Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL) was established as an integral part of the reform and opening-up of China. As a result, the official headquarters of the CI was established soon after on April 9, 2007 in Peking, under the administration of the office of the Chinese Language Council International, also known as Hanban. According to the Constitution and By-Laws of the CIs, “the Confucius Institutes shall develop and facilitate the teaching of the Chinese language overseas and promote educational and cultural exchange and cooperation between China and other international communities.”
According to statistics from 2017, there are 499 university-based CIs and 61 Confucius Classrooms on six continents, totaling 560 centers devoted to the study of Mandarin and Chinese civilization in 2017, with the cooperation of around 205 Chinese universities, according to scholars D. Lien and L. Miao.
The Hanban’s goal is to reach 1000 institutes by 2020, according to researcher C.R. Hughes. Establishing a global-scale network through the promotion of teaching Mandarin and Chinese culture has reinforced China’s position as a world leader. Furthermore, since most of CIs are based in campuses of international universities, Chinese academics have been able to expand their contacts and increase the number of exchange students studying in China thanks to cooperation agreements with higher learning institutes and international research centers through CIs. These results have contributed to China becoming a “society of innovation” and enhancing its scientific capabilities.
Note: *Confucius Classrooms are the junior version of CIs, based in high schools.
Ding, S., & Saunders, R. A. (2006). Talking up China: An analysis of China’s rising cultural power and global promotion of the Chinese language. East Asia, 23(2), 3-33.
Hughes, C. R. (2014). Confucius Institutes and the university: distinguishing the political mission from the cultural. Issues and Studies, 50(4), 45.
Lien, D., & Miao, L. (2018). Effects of Confucius Institutes on China’s higher education exports: Evidence from Chinese Partner Universities. International Review of Economics & Finance.
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