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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Confucius say: generous gifts hide ethical compromise

For the Chinese Communist Party, none of this is isolated. Confucius Institutes fits into a broader scheme called the Grand External Propaganda Strategy.

What’s the catch phrase? One need only read their speeches.

It is: “To seize the first initiative, to have the first say, to be on the active side, to direct and lead public opinion, to improve the ability to propagate the message internationally.”

Included in the US$7 billion strategy are newspapers like China Daily, broadcasters like China Central Television, and the Xinhua News Agency, which just bought an expensive piece of real estate in Times Square.

They are all “going out,” as it’s said, to bring the good news of authoritarian China’s rise to world prominence. And of course, Confucius Institutes are part and parcel. But the “charm offensive,” as The Economist notes, is simply offensive once you take out the charm.

Thus, there are fears of the Institutes infringing on academic freedom. The Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda apparatus works on two tracks: promoting favourable voices and suppressing unfavourable ones.

Next, different visions of Chinese-ness should also be presented, not just the one dominated by the Communist Party. Students can take an excursion to see the cultural creations of the Chinese Diaspora, like Shen Yun Performing Arts, and learn about sides of China that wouldn’t otherwise be covered.

And perhaps those on the receiving end of the Party-state’s human rights abuses should be called into schools to share their stories: Falun Gong practitioners who have survived the Chinese gulags, Tibetans who have escaped across the Himalayas to freedom, Uyghurs who have been slandered as terrorists, and Taiwanese who wish to live free, without the fear of thousands of missiles hanging over their heads.

Of course, if NSW Education were to do those things, the chances are that the money would be swiftly withdrawn. But isn't the price of silence higher?

More at ABC

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