University of Ulster: “part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up”

It’s a big day for the University of Ulster as it welcomes senior Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Liu Yandong to officially launch its Confucius Institute.

While promoted as independent educational and cultural bodies, the Confucius Institutes have perhaps been more accurately described as “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up.”

Who said that? Some external critic of China, no doubt? No, none other than Li Changchun, the propaganda chief of the Chinese Communist Party and the 5th ranked member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo.

It’s no coincidence then that it’s his Politburo colleague, Madame Liu Yandong, who is in Northern Ireland this week to open the Institute and meet our (democratically elected) politicians. She also happens to be the chairperson of Hanban, the Office of the Chinese Language Council International, which answers to China’s Ministry of Education, and which directs and funds the Confucius Institutes.

Hanban specifies that Chinese language teachers sent to overseas universities like the University of Ulster should be “Aged between 22 to 60, physical and mental healthy, no record of participation in Falun Gong and other illegal organizations and no criminal record.”

Pretty clear that religious discrimination is part of the Confucius Institute package, then. Is the University of Ulster academic community comfortable about this?

And no chance of someone like Professor Liu Xiaobo getting a job teaching Chinese at the University of Ulster, either. While he may be the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, of course, not only has a criminal record, he is currently serving 11 years in jail for calling for human rights and democratic reforms in the country.  This is an intrinsic part of Madame Liu Yandong and colleagues’ approach to government: lock up your critics.

The first Confucius Institute was opened in Seoul in 2004. But following President Hu Jintao’s October 2007 speech to the 17th Communist Party congress, in which he said China must “enhance culture as part of the soft power of our country”, there was rapid expansion and there are now hundreds of Confucius Institutes worldwide.

The host universities are reportedly expected to provide premises and a faculty member to serve as administrator. In return the school gets about $100,000 a year from Hanban, teaching materials, and the chance to apply for additional money for specific programs.

A few institutions have resisted the push – and the money.

As the New York Times reports, the University of Pennsylvania’s East Asian Studies faculty unanimously opposed moves to open a Confucius Institute there.  Arthur Waldron, a professor of international relations at the university is quoted: “Universities are desperate for money, and the Chinese have a lot of money”.

For Prof Waldron, the key issue is academic independence. “Once you have a Confucius Institute on campus, you have a second source of opinions and authority that is ultimately answerable to the Chinese Communist Party and which is not subject to scholarly review,” he said. “You can’t blame the Chinese government for wanting to mold discussion.”

Again, from the NYT:

‘Bruce Cumings, a tenured historian at the University of Chicago who signed a petition protesting the Confucius Institute there, said that although he is on the board of the university’s East Asian study center, he heard nothing about the institute “until the day it was opened.” But such a low-profile approach, he said, is only possible while China itself remains calm. The network of institutes “are time bombs awaiting the next Tiananmen,” he said.’

The NYT quotes Martin Davidson, chief executive of the British Council, saying that ‘the comparison, often made by Confucius Institute defenders, between his organization, which promotes British culture, and the Chinese effort, only goes so far. “We are a stand-alone organization operating out of our own premises. They are being embedded in university campuses”.’ Indeed. And also now planning to roll out their Confucius Classrooms programme in Northern Ireland’s primary and secondary schools.

To mark the launch of the Confucius Institute, the University of Ulster today commences a week-long Chinese Culture Week. Don’t expect mention of the three Ts: Tibet, Taiwan or Tiananmen. Or human rights for that matter.

Indeed, when it comes to China, it looks like our academics may be content to be as tame as our politicians.

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  • lamhdearg2

    pat, not knocking you, but could you tell me, what countrys human rights or foreign policy, you are happy with. while some of slugger eyes are looking east, was North Korea’s rocket shot down?.

    Back to the subject at hand, at least the Chinese are open about what they are doing, covert U.S. (and others)influence has been in university campus all around the world for decades, sometimes with deadly consequences, and all the while claiming, it has nothing to do with us.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Patrick, I presume the “other illegal organisations” might also include members of the many unregistered churches in the country, Protestant and Catholic, estimated at some 50-100 million people, here is a snippet from the “Open Doors” website, which puts China at No. 21 in its list of countries that persecute Christians,
    “Christianity continues to grow rapidly. Sources report that government representatives have been in dialogue with some house church leaders, leading many to believe the government has finally understood the house church is not a political threat to the state. Yet severe repression continues for some. In April the Shouwang church in Beijing was barred from meeting in its new premises and one of its pastors put under house arrest. In July a pastor was sentenced to two years in a labour camp for organising ‘illegal meetings’. ”

    I think this hilights the difficulties in dealing with China, the situation is vastly better than it used to be, and generally continuing to improve, but there are some setbacks and much still needs changed, what is the best way to deal with it? Engagement with China has certainly forced change, but pressure had to be applied too, it is a hard one to call, but I don’t like any outside bodies having undue influence in the country, be they from over the Atlantic or further afield.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    Some great points so far.

    It will remain a moral dilemna how to deal with China: Be principled and watch the next guy get a lucrative trade deal, or sell out everything you supposedly believe in.

    In relation to our own politicians I can’t imagine either McGuinness or Robinson having the nerve to get on any moral highground given their backgrounds. Indeed, how could any DUP man call for human rights in another country, when they set their face against denying them to a third of the population here?

    Lamhdearg gets at the nub: What country has a whiter than white history to speak of? Whether it’s a country with a stark anti-semitic or racist past which has shown remorse, or a present day superpower engaging in unilateralism (how many civilain rights did the US respect in Iraq? Or by the camps at guantanamo?

    The final point I think should be discussed is the most important i think: Every time a Chinese delegate is making a visit we (justly) get a call from Patrick and others to bring them to bear for what is going on. Maybe its just their size but all those diplomats and leaders from Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia etc. have never had too much pressure put on them. In fact, when taken with Libya and tunisia ~(not Saudi obviously) these regimes were toppled only by their own people taking a stand (interent helps I suppose) despite the inevitable brutal crackdown. Won’t it take a more robust organisation of the people to bring about change rather than external groups poking their noses in? I also wonder if for the ever chinese, until it is they who are locked up or on death row, they are quite pleased by the economic juggernaut they have helped create and watch with glee as these western leaders eat out of their hands and cow tow to them like this. While I do meet chinese abroad who do mention the lack of openness in their country, they never seem particularlywound up by it and are if anything quite defensive of it when shove comes to push. Just putting out there that this is much more complicated and grey than we sometimes like to imagine

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    average chinese##

    i really should proof-read these sometimes

  • carnmoney.guy

    Wanted a view from Anna Lo’s website concerning the visit, as her son Conal Hon has been arrested for anti – Tibet protests
    The website isnt working, hhhmmmmm

  • andnowwhat

    The Chinese government is awful and there’s serious problems within the country but there’s simply no way the west is going to do one single tiny thing about that for obvious reasons.

    There is one and only one way we can help and that is by a working and cultural exchange which will enlighten Chinese people, both ordinary and powerful, about how the rest of the world operates.

    As for Tibet; China are hardly unique in how it is taking over another people’s land and one prime example is one that our government and our taxes facilitate.

  • I think it is certainly a embarrassment. But for several years our universities have been looking east for funding and indeed students.
    But you either deal with these people or refuse to deal with these people.
    Should we refuse to deal with China because of its human rights record and industrial scale executions. But accept American money with a dodgy record in foreign wars and an execution rate which is only a “cottage industry” compared to China.

    For some Chinese folks it will be a good opportunity to travel the world on generous expenses, promote China and engage in a little espionage.
    A bit like the British Council.

  • ayeYerMa

    That’s a f*cking joke Charlie Sheens PR guru. To focus on your claim that the DUP have denied anyone “rights”, while gleefully ignoring Quartermaster McGuinness denying many of the ultimate “right” – that to life itself. “A third” of the population here can’t been so keen to support a violent anti-democratic insurgency and then wonder why they aren’t seen in favourable light, despite having a higher quality of life than their supporters across the border to the south.

  • Don,t worry about it boys and girls the UK Border Agency are already working on it

  • Don’t worry about it boys and girls the UK Border Agency are already working on it and dreaming up new ways of optimising their resources ie indolence, racism, bureaucracy etc .They’ll make sure we don’t soil our hands.

  • I went to the event this morning. I met some splendid Chinese people from the other side of our planet. The event was also well represented by NI politicians and I “pressed the flesh” with a few of them. If Basil McCrea is reading this, I hope he did not mind my ‘Basil Brush’ joke.

    Politics to one side, this was a celebration of the Ulster University’s achievement in securing a Confucius Institute. It was the culmination of much hard work put in by those making the bid and I say ‘achievement’ in the broadest possible sense because they beat the competition (Queens University).

    The celebration was marked by some fabulous entertainment by musicians and dancers from the University and some interesting speeches. It was all very pleasant. Peter Robinson’s speech focused on the development of business, trade and jobs. Martin McGuinness’s speech focused on Sport and Culture. Taken together, the speeches actually complemented each other.

    Mandarin Chinese is the most spoken first language in the World. That fact intersects with the one that China is run by a regime whose politics is impaired by an ideology we do not like. However, this intersection does not justify shunning opportunities that open up for Northern Irish people.

    On a day like this, I refuse to be critical of the Chinese. The setting up of a confucius institute may have some cynics thinking it is part of a greater plan for Chinese World economic domination. I dont care if it was or not because I know that the celebration (on both the NI and the Chinese side) was genuinely about education.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Anyone against the spread of hocus pocus religion,gets my vote.

  • Methinks all here, and especially those who would be thinking that the West has a lot to teach the East about human rights and the wonderful benefits of a capitalist/mercantalist pseudo-democracy with its crooked markets and selective justice systems ….. for surely no one actually believes that politicians and money lenders and rule makers give a toss for what you would be thinking or wanting ….. need to realise that they are a prime example of a successful brainwashing program, ably aided and abetted by their own compliance and complicity in not thinking about how things are done, on a global Great Game scale.

    You might like to mull over the following ……

    amanfromMars ….says on

    This paragraph ……. “Unless restrained by this court, Aereo’s unlawful conduct causes plaintiffs to lose control over the dissemination of their copyrighted programming, disrupts their relationships with licensed distributors and viewers and usurps their right to decide how and on what terms to make available and license content over new internet distribution media. That constitutes irreparable harm and Aereo’s service should be enjoined,” …. which Bruce Keller, their lawyer, wrote the federal judge presiding over the litigation, is only the tip of the iceberg for what he really means to say but is probably instructed not to make obvious and reveal, is this version of the statement …… “Unless restrained by this court, Aereo’s unlawful conduct causes plaintiffs to lose control over the dissemination of their subliminal brainwashing programs, disrupts the relationship with government approved quacks and ignorant and susceptible to grooming viewers and usurps their right to decide how and on what terms to make available and license content over new internet distribution media. That constitutes irreparable harm and Aereo’s service should be enjoined,”

    And yes, present services do constitute and cause irreparable harm, for television is perceived of by the masses as showing reality whenever in actual fact it just displays a staged program to imprint a particular and peculiar view of a foreign digitally mastered world with participating state and non-state actors and extras.

    Or are you going to tell us all that it is completely different, and that is not what television is primarily used for …. to brainwash nations and the masses with misleading information in service of a status quo political and politically incorrect social agenda?

    Yeah, right on, Big Brother, pull this one, it’s got bells on it ….. Ding a ling, a ling a dong!

    In a nutshell, your life is decided upon and taken care of in the Creative Command of IT and InterNetworking Communications and IntelAIgent Communities which deliver the simplest of titanic tasks… Control through Words to Power Controlled Worlds, or if you are into Great Game Play, Control of Words in New World Orders in Order to Control Powerful New Worlds ….. and those who can supply that sublime content to media for broadband casting, is that which rules every aspect of your present existence and either enslaves you or frees you to do as is arranged for you?

    And shared as a question, as you may doubt it. However, there is no question of doubt in the minds of those who so easily wield ITs powers. Indeed, some would always welcome the fact that such a state of affairs is comprehensively disbelieved as it extraordinarily renders to them an absolute freedom to do exactly as they please …… and for that they thank you.

    Now you know why there is such a rush by governments and security services to know what everyone is doing on the internet with trying to ensnare data centres as proxy state surveillance agents, passing on as much hoovered up information/data/metadata as they can phish and pluck out of the ether?

    But it will not change anything substantially for intelligent analysis of random information gathered and/or provided … for intelligence services are constantly being bombarded and betatested with baited information and sensitive intelligence for evidence of the future facilities/abilities needed for stealthy virtual leadership and an overwhelming fitness for universal good purpose ….. appears to be far too slow off the mark in identifying itself as being engaged in the new novel processes and ProgramMING, and that may be evidence of it being missing wholesale from present services.

    A question for Loughside [5] and Legoland [6] to ponder, methinks. And Mr Allen too, now that he appears to be fully recovered and presumably firing on all cylinders.

  • cynic2

    Underpinning all this article seems to be a strongly anti Chinese meme. Why? What have the Chinese ever done to Patrick Corrigan and why is he so suspicious of them?