Tufts U. to Shut Down Confucius Institute After Student Protests

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Tufts University in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, has announced that it will shut down its Confucius Institute in the wake of student protests. The university, however, said it is ending the Confucius Institute to “focus more on our strong and growing direct relationship” with Beijing Normal University. Student protesters attacked the school’s “shameful collaboration between the university administration and the Chinese Communist Party.”

“In 2015, Tufts University launched the Confucius Institute at Tufts University (CITU), a program within the School of Arts and Sciences, to provide support for supplemental, not-for-credit Chinese language and culture instruction and programming, and to facilitate educational and cultural exchange and cooperation between Tufts and Beijing Normal University (BNU),” Tufts said in its announcement.

While the university paints its Confucius Institute in a positive light, U.S. lawmakers increasingly characterize the institutes as outposts for Chinese government propaganda.

Moreover, under the Trump administration, the Confucius Institute U.S. Center was designated as a foreign mission, and being a part of the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda machine.

Tufts University went on to say that while the school announced a two-year renewal of the CITU in 2019, it will now allow that agreement to expire in September, so that the university can focus on “expanding and deepening” its “strong and growing direct relationship with BNU.”

“The CITU has made a valuable contribution to Chinese language and culture learning at Tufts and helped to facilitate Tufts’ important relationship with BNU,” Tufts said. “We appreciate all who have supported and contributed to its operation. We are particularly grateful to BNU, our partner in China, for its support for and role in developing the CITU’s programming from 2015 to 2021.”

The university continued:

The decision to move on from the CITU will enable the university to focus on expanding and deepening its relationship with BNU, whose College of Chinese Language and Culture is regarded as a leading center for teaching Chinese as a foreign language. Tufts already has established successful programs with BNU, including the “Tufts in Beijing” study abroad program and, over the past year, an in-person learning option for Tufts students in China, the “Tufts@BNU” program. Our successful and collaborative experience has affirmed our interest in growing our relationship with BNU and exploring potential additional options for both virtual and in-person exchange in Chinese language, culture and other areas.

While the university did not acknowledge its students’ concerns in its announcement, students previously held protests demanding the school shut down its Confucius Institute, which they referred to as a “shameful collaboration between the university administration and the Chinese Communist Party.”

“In solidarity with Uyghurs, Hongkongers, Tibetans, and all peoples who have suffered at the hands of the CCP, we will protest each Saturday until our voices are hear,” the student said in an Instagram post.

Another Instagram caption read:

“The Confucius Institute wants less people to know what [China is] actually doing in Hong Kong, Uyghur and Taiwan in today’s culture. They are basically trying to do the same thing that they did to the Tibetans. I attend these protest to show that even the younger generation can get involved because it is for the better of our future. As an Asian American or better yet a Tibetan American born in America, it’s harder for me to know about the past, so when I go to these events, I learned so much more and it makes me understand why it is so important to be proud of my own culture. To have the knowledge of what has happened to others and what is happening now is very important to me.” -Tendol, 17

In another Instagram post, an apparent Tibetan-American student wrote, “When the CCP is literally at Tufts University after my family fled Tibet.”

“We showed up to [Tufts University President Anthony Monaco]’s doorsteps and sent a very clear message,” the students said in another Instagram caption, which included an image of a sign, which read, “Confucius Institute = Chinese Communist Party’s Soft Power.”

Weekly protests at Tufts University were jointly organized by Students for a Free Tibet Boston, the Tibetan Association of Boston, the Boston Uyghur Association, Hong Kong Social Action Movements Boston, and the Formosan Association for Public Affairs MA, according to Students for a Free Tibet.

An increasing number of universities across the country have shut down their Confucius Institutes in recent years.

Last year, the University of Missouri (Mizzou) announced it was closing 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.

The year prior, the University of Delaware announced its plan to end its ten-year partnership with the Confucius Institute. And in 2018, Texas A&M University terminated its agreement to host two Confucius Institutes.

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

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