A (Troublesome) Gift from China

An organization with close ties to the government of the People’s Republic of China, eager to play a role in American higher education, recently offered to generously fund a position at Stanford University. And then things got complicated.

According to an article by Daniel Golden at Bloomberg News:

China is expanding its presence on U.S. campuses, seeking to promote its culture and history and meet a growing global demand to learn its language. Hanban, a government-affiliated group under the Chinese education ministry, has spent at least $500 million since 2004 establishing 350 Confucius Institutes worldwide and about 75 in the U.S., four times the number in any other country.

When [the] Beijing organization… offered Stanford University $4 million to host a Confucius Institute on Chinese language and culture and endow a professorship, it attached one caveat: The professor couldn’t discuss delicate issues like Tibet.

That would have been awkward. One wonders if he would be allowed to discuss, say, Taiwan or air pollution. How about democracy?

Stanford apparently refused the offer. The money will instead go to fund a professorship in classical Chinese poetry, which has no (immediate) political implications.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer