September 7th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Hong Kong's David and Goliath struggle

CLIMATE ALARMISM Governments plan to do what the climate itself has so far failed to do: Impoverish our lives

GENDER POLITICS Transgender sport policies are now in Morrison's court/pitch/field

LIFE ISSUES Sloppily drafted NSW abortion bill invites open slather

LIFE ISSUES NSW abortion bill: Nothing but danger and death ahead

GENDER POLITICS From Safe Schools to 2,400 child transitioners

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Confucius Institutes: China's art of soft power

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Why Cardinal Pell is appealing to the High Court

CLIMATE POLITICS Political posturing ignores true forces shaping Pacific islands

HISTORY AND POLITICS Lord Acton, nationalism and multiculturalism, Part 1 of two parts

HISTORY The lost Namban Caves

HUMOUR Incense and Insensibility

MUSIC Refinement: Delicate touches that make all the difference

CINEMA Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood: The day the music died ...

BOOK REVIEW All are losers in classroom warfare

BOOK REVIEW Model minority strikes back




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Confucius Institutes: China's art of soft power

by Elizabeth Xie

News Weekly, September 7, 2019


“To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

Sun Tzu, Art of War 

Did you know that there are 14 Confucius Institutes throughout Australia, plus 67 Confucius Classrooms in primary and high schools? Thirteen institutes are in universities, and one is in the New South Wales Department of Education. Australia has the third-highest number of Confucius Institutes and Classrooms in the world, after the United States and Great Britain.

I had no idea they existed until the recent protest at the University of Queensland on July 31, organised by Australian students questioning vice-chancellor Professor Peter Høj’s links to the Chinese body, Hanban, which maintains China’s global network of Confucius Institutes.

This came after a silent sit-in by Hong Kong international students the previous week, protesting the extradition bill which allows for citizens and visitors to Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial; 2 million people in Hong Kong marched again this bill on June 16. Pro-Chinese Communist Party students reacted to the silent protest by ripping down banners and physically attacking the Hong Kong students.

Australian Wilson Gavin, in his third year studying Arts and Communications, explains why he took part in the protests: “I am a strong believer in academic independence, and knowing that a branch of the Chinese Communist Party’s Propaganda Ministry had an office at my university was an affront to me … I felt I had a duty to stand up against the Confucius Institute and in solidarity with the oppressed peoples of China.

“We are surrendering our economic independence, our political freedoms, and our national sovereignty to China, and I am glad to be a small part of such a huge worldwide movement committed to bringing down this wicked communist regime.

“ ‘As Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong said: ‘It’s high time we really showed that we want to be free and not to be slaves; we must unite together.’ ”

He adds: “The Confucius Institute is present on almost every university campus in Australia, as well as hundreds of schools. At the University of Queensland, they have discretion over funding, hiring, and curriculum. They attempt to monitor students and academics for dissent against the Chinese Communist Party line on sensitive issues. They have deep ties with the university administration. It is imperative that the government and universities take a firm stand to combat them.”

A Hong Kong student (name withheld for protection), states: “I have been in Australia for two years … [Australia and Hong Kong] both respect the constitution, rule of law, peaceful protest, and democracy. China wants to absorb Hong Kong into itself and destroy the special legacies of British rule which set Hong Kong aside from China. My people back home are marching on the streets to stop China from destroying Hong Kong. I want to do the same here, and to tell the Australians what is happening in Hong Kong.

“If China gets their way and breaks the basic law of Hong Kong, I am scared to return home, that isn’t a place I want to spend my life in.

“When I heard about what the Chinese Government was doing at Australian universities, I was so surprised that they cannot see through the propaganda. When they come here, they aren’t teaching about Chinese culture or language: they are here to take over your country.”

After the first protest, attendees were targeted online by pro-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) vigilantes, who revealed their personal information. The Guardian reports that a Hong Kong student had his driver’s licence, marriage certificate, student ID and other identifying information published on Chinese social media site Weibo.

Are the Confucius Institutes as sinister as claimed? Or are they simply a means of promoting culture and language appreciation, like Alliance Française or the Goethe-Institut?

In 2014, the Chinese Academy of Military Science hosted the 9th International Symposium on Sun Tzu’s Art of War, entitled “Sun Tzu’s Art of War and Peace, Cooperation and Development”. Kevin Rudd gave a speech at this conference, quoting Sun Tzu: “The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin.”

This aggressive approach to securing the interests of one’s state is reflected in agreements signed by the University of Queensland, Griffith University, La Trobe University and Charles Darwin University with Beijing over the CCP- funded Confucius Institutes, stating that they “must accept the assessment of the [Confucius Institute] Headquarters on the teaching quality” at each centre. The by-laws of Confucius Institutes demand that staff not “contravene concerning the laws and regulations of China”.

Chinese Deputy Education Minister Hao Ping has openly said that “establishing Confucius Institutes is a strategic plan for increasing our soft power”.

Professors in the U.S. and Canada have urged their universities to expel the Confucius Institutes. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) declared that universities “have sacrificed the integrity of the university and its academic staff”.

“Allowing any third-party control of academic matters is inconsistent with principles of academic freedom, shared governance, and the institutional auto­nomy of colleges and universities,” the AAUP statement continued.

There are over 100 Confucius Institutes in North America. At the end of 2017, there were 525 Confucius Institutes and 1,113 Confucius Classrooms in 146 countries and regions throughout the world.

Confucius Institute staff are screened for “good political quality” and “love of the motherland”. Chinese-language teacher Sonia Zhao had to hide her adherence to Falun Gong while teaching in Canada, until she left the institute and applied for refugee status. She said: “Since I left the Confucius Institute, for the first time, I feel free inside.”

Laughably, Michael McNally, Queensland division secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union, claimed in The Guardian: “Compared to what the Ramsay Centre is trying to do, I think the Confucius Institute is pretty tame by comparison.”

As a person of Chinese descent born in a former British colony and raised to appreciate both Western and Asian civilisation, while recognising their weaknesses, I really cannot understand why people get so upset over the Ramsay Centre (disclosure: one of the best Literature lecturers I know is working there). Why can’t we examine Western culture alongside all the rest? (One may argue that communism is a Western concept transplanted into China.)

Conversely, as the descendent of hard-working peasants who lost all they had to the rapacious communists, it seems completely stupid that people downplay concerns about China. Just this February, Australia’s Parliament was hacked by a foreign nation, most likely China. Singapore’s public health system was likewise breached last August. Fifty-two-year-old New Zealand professor Anne-Marie Brady, who spent half her life researching China, endured intimidation and repeated break-ins to her office and home prior to testifying in Australia’s Parliament on Chinese military activity on Australian Antarctic territory.

Sun Tzu recommends this duplicitous method of winning: “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.” The Confucius Institutes may appear harmless, but their mask is starting to slip.

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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