Lawmakers to boost Taiwan language programs over China-funded ones at US universities

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers are looking to boost Taiwan as an alternative to China-funded Confucius Institutes for language programs at universities and colleges in the United States.

Key details: Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Ed Markey’s (D-MA) offices confirmed to Axios that they are set to introduce a resolution urging American universities and colleges to strengthen their educational links with Taiwan on Tuesday.

The move is in support of the U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative launched in December 2020. The initiative aims to offer Americans opportunities to learn Mandarin from Taiwanese teachers, while American teachers would help Taiwan become a bilingual society by 2023.

Why the decision: The Confucius Institute, which became a hot topic that ignited a debate during a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on Sept. 19, has reportedly been on a decline since 2017, from over 100 operational programs that year to just six today after the seventh classroom reportedly closed in June.

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Showing support: In a statement, Blackburn noted that students can still be taught about Chinese culture, history and language while being “free from China's grasp.”

Meanwhile, Markey said in a statement to Axios that to continue building relationship with Taiwan, “we need to support foreign language exchange between our two nations.”

Not the first: Blackburn led a group of Republican lawmakers in urging the U.S. Department of Education to consider tapping into Taiwan to replace the dwindling numbers of Confucius Institute for its Mandarin language programs in a letter sent on March 18, 2021.

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