China is attempting to rebrand Confucius Institutes following a worldwide backlash against the centers.
Confucius Institutes, which are present on dozens of U.S. college campuses and at other foreign universities, carry the stated purpose of promoting Chinese language and culture. However, U.S. officials have singled out the institutes as propaganda centers that serve as an extension of China’s “soft power.”
The Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing has changed its name to the “Ministry of Education Centre for Language Education and Cooperation.” Additionally, the organization changed the name of its account on Chinese social-media app WeChat, although it is not clear if Confucius Institutes in other countries will themselves be renamed.
The name change is “related to various kinds of pressure, but it is by no means succumbing to them,” Sun Yixue, a professor at the International School of Tongji University in Shanghai, told the South China Morning Post. “It is a timely adjustment made by China to adapt to the new situation of world language and cultural exchanges, but this does not mean that all overseas Confucius Institutes should be renamed accordingly.”
Several American universities have shut their Confucius Institutes in the past several months, after the coronavirus pandemic led to increased public scrutiny of the U.S.-China relationship and Chinese influence on American campuses. Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are currently in the midst of an investigation into the institutes.
“We cannot allow a dangerous Communist regime to buy access to our institutions of higher education, plain and simple,” Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) said in a statement upon announcing the investigation in May. “We owe it to the American people to hold China accountable and to prevent them from doing further harm to our country.”