Sweden Shuts Down Its Last Remaining Confucius Institute

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Sweden shut down its last remaining Chinese state-funded teaching programme – known as Confucius Institutes – this week as tensions between the two nations increase.

Sweden is believed to be the first European nation to have closed all of its Confucius Institutes, a move viewed as a sign of the strained relationship between the two countries, according to a report by The Times.

The report added that the two nations have had a falling out over the arrest of Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen who had published books that offended the Chinese Communist Party and that, since then, China has cancelled trade missions to Sweden as its ambassador to Stockholm has warned that Beijing said, “For our enemies, we have a shotgun.”

Additionally, Chinese state media have criticized Sweden’s handling of the Wuhan coronavirus, describing it as “capitulation” and a danger to other countries, reports The Times.

Confucius Institutes are Chinese state-funded organizations established at schools around the world. While communist China claims that the institutes promote Chinese language and culture, critics say the regime uses them to manipulate universities into parroting Chinese propaganda and intimidating anti-communist thinkers at universities.

Former leader of the Chinese Communist Party Li Changchun described Confucius Institutes as “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up,” according to The Economist.

“Public opinion of China has become a lot more negative in Sweden,” said doctor Björn Jerden, the head of the Asia program at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs in Stockholm.

“This is quite significant, since Sweden used to be one of the most active countries in Europe in terms of the number of these agreements,” Jerden added.

Confucius Institutes have also been getting shut down in the United States – especially now, amid tensions with China.

This year, the University of Missouri (Mizzou) announced the closing of its Confucius Institute after the U.S. Department of State notified the school that it is no longer allowed to have Chinese instructors teaching Mandarin without the supervision of a Chinese-speaking American.

Arizona State, Indiana, San Francisco State, Western Kentucky Universities, and the Universities of Hawaii at Manoa, Kansas, Oregon, and Rhode Island have also all closed their Confucius Institutes.

Last October, the University of Delaware announced its plan to end its ten-year partnership with the Confucius Institute.

In 2018, Texas A&M University terminated its agreement to host two Confucius Institutes at the urging of Representatives Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Michael McCaul (R-TX), who described the institutes as threats to national security.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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