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[Xmca-l] Re: [cores-ucfaculty] Memo on Confucius Institutes at the U of C
Thanks, David, for your thoughts. It would be improper for me to talk about Asian politics as I am not well informed and not familiar with the local challenges people face in the many different realities there.
What I can say, from the point of view of a Latin American scholar trained in the USA, is that what makes Confucius Institutes special and subject to debate is that they are embedded WITHIN the universities. So, they stand as university centers instead of state sponsored organizations (there is one in my university and I thought it was a purely academic initiative).
Other centers such as the British Council are not embedded within universities and because of it they don't call the attention of academics (but for getting funds) and it is not expected that they adhere to the priniciples of universities, questionable or not. If Confucius Institutes were placed as cultural exchange centers they will not be a matter of scrutiny for the "chronicle of higher education" and other alike outlets. They would be just like any other British Council.
As for me, I still think that the distinction between organisations created to promote state related cultural exchanges and centers placed within a university to advance research is a relevant one. Of course, we can disagree and find many nuances to this distinction. I don't think that universities are necessarily perfect places and in most cases they under-perform according to their own standards of free speech and democracy, specially those that work as global corporations. And yet, the idea behind what a university stand for is a relevant one.
Have a nice weekend,
On Mar 21, 2014, at 6:13 PM, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Thanks for the links; they are indeed very revealing. The first is
> about a member of the sinister suicide cult "Falungong" who claims
> that she was discriminated against for belonging to a sinister suicide
> cult which, once an integral part of the Chinese Communist Party and
> especially the Chinese military, is now carrying out self-immolations
> inside China.
> The second one, which I couldn't read in its entirety, gave the
> distinct impression that there were very few documented instances of
> discrimination connected with the CIs, certainly no more than were
> connected with the British Council, the Alliance Francaise, or the
> Goethe Institutes (let alone the Pushkin Institutes). This was
> reinforced by the third wikipedia article.
> So why is it OK for the British Council to promote British interests
> but wrong for the CI to promote the interests of the Chinese state?
> Here is my theory. Marshall Sahlins is a highly respected
> anthropologist; I remember the excitement with which I read his work
> when I was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. UC is also
> the base of Richard Shweder, who is to this day one of the most
> articulate spokespersons for the survival of minority cultures. And a
> lot of the animosity against the CI's is being whipped up, not just by
> sinister suicide cults like Falungong but also by the Tibetan and
> Uighur separatists.
> Tibetan and Uighur separatists have had a hard time in exile (and as a
> result both are now resorting to self-immolation and to terroristic
> attacks domestically). They first wanted to promote their agendas as
> matters of self-determination. But this is too destabilizing an agenda
> to promote in the West, so even the Dalai Lama has given it up. Much
> better to promote the separatist agenda as a matter of cultural
> preservation, especially with Western anthropologists.
> There are two problems with this which I think that Sahlins would
> realize if Tibet or Xinjiang were his actual field of expertise (see,
> for example, the work of Melvyn Goldstein, for contrast). The first is
> that the West is by no means a guarantor of premodern culture;
> historically, the record of the Chinese has been far, far better. The
> second is that the separatists on the ground in Xinjiang and Tibet
> (and even abroad in Dharamsala and in Chicago) often frame the
> struggle for the preservation of a culture as one for ethnic
> cleansing; that is, the areas they come from must be cleansed of
> Chinese speaking population. It is quite understandable why a
> Confucius Institute would not want to promote THAT kind of point of
> view; the wonder is that anyone in the West would even listen to it.
> David Kellogg
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> On 22 March 2014 01:45, David Preiss <email@example.com> wrote:
>> For what is worth:
>> Issues with CI are not specific to Chicago
>> On Mar 21, 2014, at 12:29 AM, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>>> How quaint that the University of Chicago, which trained torturers,
>>> quartermasters, and tamed intellectuals for Chiang Kaishek, for
>>> Pinochet and then for Menachem Begin, is now concerned about lending
>>> its non-existent liberal credentials to anti-liberal regimes. How
>>> inconventient that there are also forms of free speech and association
>>> which are barred from the USA but at least nominally acceptable in
>>> David Kellogg
>>> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
>>> On 21 March 2014 11:33, mike cole <email@example.com> wrote:
>>>> I am passing along a note from a colleague at the University of Chicago
>>>> that it seems people might find useful to know about.
>>>> Begin forwarded message:
>>>> *From:* Marshall Sahlins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>>>> *Date:* March 20, 2014 at 12:27:31 PM EDT
>>>> *To:* "email@example.com" <
>>>> *Subject:* *[cores-ucfaculty] Memo on Confucius Institutes at the U of C*
>>>> *Reply-To:* firstname.lastname@example.org
>>>> Dear Colleagues:
>>>> This memorandum is meant to follow Bruce Lincoln's call to action on the
>>>> matter of the Confucius Institute at the University of Chicago.
>>>> I have written two rather long papers detailing my own and colleagues'
>>>> concerns regarding Confucius Institutes at the U of C and many other
>>>> universities and colleges the world around--not to mention hundreds of
>>>> Confucius Classrooms in secondary and primary schools. An edited version of
>>>> one of these papers was published in The Nation late last year under the
>>>> title :China U" (http://www.thenation.com/article/176888/china-u). Another,
>>>> "On the Defense of Confucius Institutes: At the University of Chicago, For
>>>> Example," will soon appear on an internet blog. The latter piece includes a
>>>> summary of the compromises to the University's intellectual and moral
>>>> values occasioned by our participation in the global CI project--with
>>>> regrettable effects on our academic standing and reputation. I append that
>>>> summary below,as excerpted from the longer text. Note that "Hanban" here
>>>> refers to the the Office of the Chinese Council International, which runs
>>>> the Confucius Institutes world wide.
>>>> The kinds and number of compromises of its own intellectual and pedagogical
>>>> principles entailed by the participation of the University of Chicago in
>>>> Confucius Institutes must have regrettable effects on its academic
>>>> integrity as an institution, let alone its general academic standing and
>>>> reputation. Here in summary are several of the most evident of such
>>>> breaches of principle, as manifest in the statements or actions of
>>>> responsible University of Chicago parties:
>>>> --The University in 2009 committed itself to a contract with the Confucius
>>>> Institutes which included clauses on the teaching of Chinese language and
>>>> culture. By these provisions, Hanban was given the right to train, supply,
>>>> and pay the teachers, as well as providetextbooks and teaching materials,
>>>> of courses within the University's own Chinese language program. The
>>>> University signed the agreement in bad faith, as it never intended to give
>>>> Hanban control of the texts and class materials, and thereby of the course
>>>> curriculum. This added an element of hypocrisy to the problematic
>>>> provisions of the agreement with the Confucius Institutes, several of which
>>>> are noted in the following.
>>>> --The University violated its own statutes by not submitting this contract,
>>>> inasmuch as it included teaching provisions, for approval by the
>>>> representatives of the faculty in the Council of the Senate. Instead the
>>>> University claimed that a vote by the China scholars of the Center for East
>>>> Asian Studies constituted faculty approval.
>>>> --The University repeated this violation of faculty governance by
>>>> appointing a Confucius Institute in-house Committee of three professors,
>>>> all of whom are China specialists, to hold hearings and make
>>>> recommendations on the renewal of the CI contract.
>>>> --The University falsely claimed to be "fully engaged" in the hiring
>>>> process of teachers supplied by Hanban. At most it now claims a right of
>>>> refusal it has never exercised.
>>>> --The University ignored the fact that Hanban is guided by Chinese law in
>>>> selecting the teachers it sends, including laws that criminalize forms of
>>>> belief and free speech protected in the US. As a result, the University
>>>> becomes complicit in discriminatory hiring practices.
>>>> --The University ignored the fact that the teachers sent by Hanban to host
>>>> institutions abroad are trained to avoid or divert discussions in class of
>>>> subjects that are potentially politically embarrassing to the PRC .
>>>> --The University admitted that " a certain amount of self-censorship" is
>>>> involved in the activities of its Confucius Institute. It offered the
>>>> compensation that politically controversial topics could be sponsored by
>>>> other units of the University, thus sanctioning the principle that
>>>> censorship is permissible in any academic unit so long as it does not apply
>>>> somewhere else in the University.
>>>> --The University, affirming in official statements that its CI, like all
>>>> others, was "affiliated" through Hanban with the Chinese Ministry of
>>>> Education, thus failed to take or give notice that the Governing Council of
>>>> the Confucius Institutes, which sets the agenda of Hanban and receives its
>>>> reports, is chaired by a member of the Politburo and composed by high
>>>> officials of the PRC, including members of the State Council and the
>>>> Ministers or Vice-Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Education, National
>>>> Development, Culture, Commerce, and Finance.
>>>> --The University accordingly considered it inconsequential that research
>>>> projects on Chinese development proposed by Chicago faculty and students
>>>> are submitted through its CI to Hanban, which makes the final decisions on
>>>> approval and funding for approval and funding.
>>>> --Indeed, the University also ignored--perhaps because it was considered
>>>> impractical and unenforceable--that according to its own Constitution and
>>>> By-laws (Chapter 6, Article 36b), Hanban reserves the right to take
>>>> punitive legal action for any activity sponsored by a local Confucius
>>>> Institute without its approval.
>>>> These dubious aspects of Chicago's Confucius Institute notwithstanding,
>>>> many affiliated faculty as well as University officials are quite content
>>>> with it, citing the freedom in practice from the contractual restraints on
>>>> teaching Chinese, the quality of the Hanban teachers, the conferences on
>>>> family economics undertaken with our Department of Economics, and the
>>>> research opportunities the CI opens in China. This local satisfaction,
>>>> however, involves the University in compromises of its own academic
>>>> principles on a much greater scale. I noted this in /The Nation /article,
>>>> but as the editing necessarily compressed it, I spell out the point here.
>>>> For it needs to be considered that the interests of Hanban and particular
>>>> American universities are different in scale and character. As an
>>>> instrument of the Chinese government policy, Hanban's interests are global
>>>> and real-political. Its mission is to spread the influence of the Chinese
>>>> state worldwide, particularly in strategically consequential regions, and
>>>> above all the United States. Accordingly, with this larger objective in
>>>> mind, the Beijing Head Office is ready to make case-by-case accommodations
>>>> to American academic sensibilities: especially to prestigious
>>>> universities--/pour encourager les autres/. The apparent loss Hanban takes
>>>> in one local engagement may be an overall gain for the program world-wide.
>>>> By contrast, the American universities for their part are concerned only
>>>> with their own parochial welfare as academic institutions. Interested in
>>>> the short-term economic, teaching, or research benefits, they are inclined
>>>> to ignore or dismiss the unsavory political aspects of Confucius
>>>> Institutes, which is to say the larger implication of their own
>>>> participation, so long as they get a good deal. The larger implication is
>>>> that their participation lends support to a project that is inimical to the
>>>> academic integrity of other institutions even as it compromises their own.
>>>> When the establishment the CI at the University of Chicago was announced,
>>>> one distinguished professor emeritus objected in a communication to the
>>>> executive body (Committee of the Council) of the faculty legislature
>>>> (Council of the Senate):
>>>> "I do not doubt that, regardless of its own statutes on these matters, the
>>>> Confucius Institute has given broad assurances of academic integrity and
>>>> freedom to the University of Chicago officials and teachers. I do not doubt
>>>> it because the value of enlisting the prestige of the University of Chicago
>>>> in the cause of the international success of the CI initiative would make
>>>> any such concessions worthwhile, even if they were more than nominal. This,
>>>> then, is the ultimate concern: that we are lending our good name to a
>>>> political project that by its own by-laws infringes on our traditions of
>>>> academic freedom at the same time it transgresses on our ideals of human
>>>> rights, and in so doing we help spread these effects to other institutions
>>>> that are less able to refuse the financial inducements that accompany them."
>>>> In a few words: no matter how liberal or beneficial the terms of its own
>>>> participation, the University of Chicago, by hosting a Confucius Institute,
>>>> becomes engaged in a world-political struggle in a way that contradicts the
>>>> intellectual and moral values on which it is founded.
>>>> In the event, there is a direct relationship between the global development
>>>> of Confucius Institutes and the impairment of the University of Chicago's
>>>> good name. Judging from the adverse comments reported from many
>>>> universities in the US and a number in other countries, the damages to the
>>>> reputation of the University attendant on its establishment of a Confucius
>>>> Institute are tracking the spread of the Hanban project. In the shadow of
>>>> Hanban's success come expressions of disappointment, dismay, and
>>>> incredulity that an institution so well regarded for its intellectual
>>>> quality and academic probity should become involved in such a dubious
>>>> initiative of such an illiberal regime.
>>>> Marshall Sahlins
>>>> 20 March 2014
>>>> Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology Emeritus;
>>>> University of Chicago.