Confucius Institutes help to promote global mutual understanding

By Sasaki Koji | China Daily Global
Updated: Aug 24, 2021

I work at the Ritsumeikan Confucius Institute, which was founded in 2005 by Ritsumeikan University in Japan in cooperation with Peking University. We carry out Chinese language education and Chinese culture introduction activities every day and have many participants.

In addition, short- and long-term scholarship programs have helped many college students pursue studies in China.

As a Confucius Institute, we have played a very important role in mutual understanding and exchanges between Japan and China, of which I am so proud.

I have been to China, and I am impressed by its vastness as well as the rapid economic development, improved customer service and cashless society. In interacting with the Chinese, there are differences in culture and ways of thinking, but there also are many things we can understand about each other.

Incidentally, all kinds of criticism and attacks against China and the Confucius Institutes are mainly motivated by political intentions. The attacks mainly reflect a sense of crisis arising from the criticizing countries' notion that their economies are threatened by China's economic development.

In addition, because China's political system is different from those of the United States and Japan, there is a sense of distrust. In particular, coverage of China in Japanese and US media is narrow and negative, thereby spreading a rather biased, negative influence.

According to the criticism of Confucius Institutes, they are made out, through distortion, to be Chinese spy agencies or Chinese propaganda agencies that impose Chinese values. However, there is no evidence, as far as I know, of a Confucius Institute being accused of spying.

It is basically the same as what most countries, including Japan, do by establishing institutions to spread their own languages and cultures. There is no evidence that Confucius Institutes, which are jointly established by local and Chinese universities, are propagandizing-despite repeated accusations they are doing so.

In February 2019, the US Government Accountability Office reviewed agreements with 90 Confucius Institutes but found no evidence to support the concerns that had been expressed. In Japan, students of Chinese language courses at Confucius Institutes commented on social media that there is no political content in the classroom and that it is absurd to say the institutes are spy agencies.

Since the US government urged the closure of what it called "problematic" Confucius Institutes, closures have spread to other countries. Forced closure is a problem. Each Confucius Institute should be judged according to the situation of the respective university.

The situation of Confucius Institutes in Japan should be decided by the participating universities themselves. There is no reason for shutdowns. First of all, the Japanese government has no problem. There is no evidence supporting the criticism and no verification of any accusations, and the attitude of the media in reporting on the issue should be questioned. I hope that rational media will objectively evaluate the efforts of Confucius Institutes.

The attitude of the US and Japanese media seems to be to deliberately conduct a rough investigation of China. The overall content of the reporting is biased and reflects attempts to interfere in other countries' internal affairs, and the information is insufficient. However, it is important to speak calmly and seriously, and to understand each other based on historical facts and differences in population size and ethnic composition, rather than emotionally criticizing or attacking with hate speech.

In fact, China, with 56 ethnic groups and a population of 1.4 billion, has experienced tremendous economic and social development in the past 10 to 20 years, has overcome absolute poverty in rural areas and leads the world in applying for international patents. Honestly, I was surprised by the number of patent applications and the high level of technological development shown by various entrepreneurs.

China is full of charm. I have a lot to learn from China. We will continue to promote mutual understanding between Japan and China through the efforts of the Confucius Institutes, and we invite everyone to participate in this initiative.

The author is director of the General Office at the Ritsumeikan Confucius Institute.

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