Friday 27th of January 2023

unthinking confucius....

British Minister for Security Tom Tugendhat, a member of the newly formed Rishi Sunak cabinet, recently responded to a question from anti-China MP Iain Duncan Smith regarding the future of China’s Confucius Institutes (CI) in the UK. Smith, the biggest cheerleader of the anti-China agenda in the UK, has a reputation for asking such opportunistic, inflammatory questions in a bid to generate headlines and put items on the agenda.


By Timur Fomenko, a political analyst 


Tugendhat responded to the question, saying the government “is looking to close” all of the institutions. The news was widely acclaimed online, and the talking point was again pushed that Confucius Institutes, whose official state purpose is providing instruction in the Chinese language, are really a ‘trojan horse’ project for political influence and ‘propaganda’.

Confucius Institutes have been subjected to a longstanding propaganda campaign originating from the US, and now a highly unpopular and brittle Rishi Sunak government eyes them as an easy kill to pacify the right-wing constituency and prove its credentials. Sunak may be the new prime minister, but he is but a legacy of two previous governments who were forced to step down in disgrace and disarray. He trails Labour by 30 points in most polls, pointing to a wipe-out for the Conservatives when the next general election comes.

Sunak’s stance as Britain’s first ethnic minority prime minister does not soften his outlook. Rather, it leaves him with something to prove. He is but one of a group of British Indians who, having made it to the highest levels of politics, have sought to buy legitimacy and support for themselves not by preaching tolerance, equality, and goodwill, but by hard-line right-wing nationalism. Just ask Priti Patel, or Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who described migrants as an “invasion” last week. They aim to be more British than the British themselves.

And when not bashing migrants, what more of an easy target is there than China? During his time as chancellor, Sunak seemed favourable to Beijing. However, since aiming to become the leader of the party, he has become increasingly sensitive to the idea of being ‘soft’ on Beijing, and has sought to appeal to ultra-hawks with inflammatory and aggressive rhetoric towards China, even on his first day as prime minister. Through this, he has conjured up the proposal to close all Confucius Institutes. For his government, it is seen as an easy target because it is incredibly easy to demonize and spread paranoia, and few members of the public have an objective or informed understanding of what Confucius Institutes actually do, not least the core Conservative Party constituency, who will be the least likely to use them.

Confucius Institutes have been repeatedly accused of spreading “propaganda” and “stifling academic freedom.” These talking points are not, of course, serious, but stem from a campaign created by the US, which has sought to contain China by deliberately whipping up a McCarthyist climate to undermine engagement with the PRC. The institutes have been made into a grotesque bogeyman, transforming something as innocent and benign as Chinese language education into a massive, out-of-proportion threat. There is no serious evidence that any of these institutions have really pursued what they have been accused of, from ‘propaganda’ to ‘stifling academic freedom’ to even ‘espionage’.




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