Penn State, University of Chicago suspend cooperation with Chinese institutes

Concerns over propaganda and academic freedom drive the decision

Two U.S. universities have suspended cooperation with the Chinese government-sponsored Confucius Institute over concerns that the organization functions as a propaganda arm of the Chinese government.

Pennsylvania State University announced last Wednesday it would wind down its five-year relationship with the institute by the end of the year, following a similar announcement by The University of Chicago (UC) at the end of September.

The United States has nearly 500 Confucius Institutes, which provide funding and programming for Chinese language instruction and cultural exchange.

However, professors at both UC and Penn State voiced concerns that the institutes were overtly influenced by the political aims of the Chinese Communist Party, and discouraged discussion of sensitive topics—such the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, and Chinese control of Tibet.

The decision to suspend cooperation with the institutes comes as pro-democracy student protests in Hong Kong draw increasing pressure from the Chinese government—and attention from abroad (Bernstein, Reuters, 10/1).

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