In the June 8 article “Institutes on U.S. campuses: a boon or a threat?” Matthew Pennington seeks to provide a balanced view of the arguments, pro and con, regarding the issue of Confucius Institutes and national security. But in doing so, he glosses over the seminal issue that has been the primary cause of rejection or controversy on U.S. and European campuses.
It isn’t a concern about the cultivation of China intelligence operatives: Rather, it’s that Confucius Institutes have been wielding their considerable financial clout on campuses to suppress courses, seminars or invited guests who want to address issues that are not acceptable to the Chinese government. Most prominent among these are issues related to Tibetan identity and the Dalai Lama.
I know colleagues whose attempts to promote such discussions have been shut down due to this kind of pressure. It is the fear of extension of this kind of usage of soft power that has led many institutions to be concerned.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.