Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Doesn't look like soft power to us

China's venture at using soft power to expand its influence is running into some resistance from those who don't see the efforts as "soft power."

TDSB votes to delay partnership with Beijing-backed Confucius Institute
Trustees of the Toronto District School Board [TDSB] have passed a motion to delay the rollout of Mandarin courses [offered by the Confucius Institute] to elementary students in September.

Trustees overwhelmingly voted for the delay on Wednesday evening, with three opposed. The vote followed heated debate among trustees of Canada’s largest school board…

Former TDSB chair Chris Bolton was the driving force behind the Confucius Institute…

Mr. Bolton resigned last Friday as chair and a trustee, citing personal reasons. Trustees elected his successor on Wednesday – vice-chair Mari Rutka…

Ms. Rutka told reporters the TDSB’s secretive agreement with the Chinese government is typical of the lack of openness. Many trustees had little idea what they were getting into when they approved the Confucius Institute, she said.

It was Ms. Rutka who tabled the motion to suspend the Confucius Institute to give trustees an opportunity to investigate concerns about censorship by the Chinese government…

More than 400 Confucius institutes operate worldwide, most in universities and colleges. The TDSB was the third school board in Canada to open an institute…

The institutes are seen as a global “soft-power” outreach effort by the Chinese government, funding foreign language and culture centres to foster good will.

Critics of the Confucius Institutes suggest there is another agenda. The American Association of University Professors is the latest group of educators to raise alarms about an organization whose instructors are trained to self-censor topics that are politically taboo in China…

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