UCD, China and the Confucius Institute
Sir, – It was alarming to read in The Irish Times that UCD has undertaken to fund its new Confucius Institute to the tune of €500,000 per year for the next 10 years, and to be responsible for its running for the next 50 years (“UCD agrees 50-year ‘free’ lease for Confucius Institute”, April 17th). Western universities are at least nominally independent institutions for education, and for fostering an ethos of free-thinking inquiry and study very much at odds with the current communist Chinese model.
To quote former vice-premier Li Changchun, the Confucius Institutes are “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up”. They are recognised worldwide as being part of Beijing’s “soft power” approach to international relations and intelligence gathering. Far from being academically neutral or independent, they have been closed down in Japan and France because of perceived infringements of academic freedom. Several have also been closed down in the US, Canada, Australia and Sweden for the same reason.
Universities which establish Confucius Institutes in partnership with the Chinese government also contract to support Beijing’s “One China” policy. Taiwan and Tibet are taboo topics, along with all areas deemed “sensitive” and likely to “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” or “interfere with China’s internal affairs”.
It is significant that UCD’s Confucius Institute was inaugurated last year by Liu Yunshan, who succeeded Li Changchun as Beijing’s head of propaganda. He is one of the top five members of China’s secretive inner politburo. He is instrumental in propagating Xi Jinping’s hard line on media control and internet censorship. This at a time when central party control in China is becoming increasingly intolerant of dissent. Liu Yunshan is also head of the party secretariat and cental party school, with particular responsibility for party discipline.
One must also ask whether our Government is well-advised to be subsidising the Confucius Institute, an organ of the Chinese state propaganda machine, to the tune of €3 million. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – China is a totalitarian dictatorship where Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are banned, together with scores of other online news agencies, including the BBC and CNN. There is no rule of law, corruption is systemic, and there is precious little in the way of true academic freedom. Is this what we’re importing now? Are we happy to potentially subvert our democratic freedoms for trade deals? It is beyond disgraceful.
Sensing the danger, Sweden and Canada have shut these places down, but apparently Ireland still wallows in the delusion that China regards it as a “respected partner”. Belfield, wake up. – Yours, etc,