May 27, 2012

State Department Directive Could Disrupt K-12 Chinese Outreach

Here are excerpts from two articles from the Chronicle of Higher Education dealing with a recent State Department memorandum and its potential impact on Confucius Institute programs in the United States:

State Department Directive Could Disrupt Teaching Activities of Campus-Based Confucius Institutes
By Karin Fischer
May 21, 2012

A policy directive sent by the U.S. Department of State to universities that sponsor Confucius Institutes suggests that the language and cultural centers that are a key piece of the Chinese government's diplomatic outreach will have to change how they operate or fall afoul of American visa laws.

The memorandum, dated May 17, states that any academics at university-based institutes who are teaching at the elementary- and secondary-school levels are violating the terms of their visas and must leave at the end of this academic year, in June. And it says that, after a "preliminary review," the State Department has determined that the institutes must obtain American accreditation in order to continue to accept foreign scholars and professors as teachers.

About 60 universities in the United States now host the centers, which are also in more than 60 other countries. (One state, Washington, and one American city, Chicago, also host Confucius Institutes.) The Chinese government typically pays to start the centers and for a portion of their continuing costs, as a diplomacy effort.

Read the full article at

State Department Denies Targeting Confucius Institutes but Holds to Decision on Visas
By Karin Fischer
May 22, 2012

A recent State Department policy directive was not intended to disrupt the activities of Confucius Institutes, the university-based, Chinese-sponsored language and cultural centers, but rather was an effort to ensure that foreign academics and teachers at the institutes come to the United States under the correct visa categories, a State Department official said on Tuesday.

And the department appears to be backpedaling from its insistence in the memorandum, issued late last week, that the centers must be part of the sponsoring college's foreign-language program or apply for separate accreditation, a stance that had greatly troubled both American institutions and the Office of Chinese Language Council International, or Hanban, which oversees Confucius Institutes worldwide.

Still, the department is holding firm to another part of the policy guidance. The administration official made it clear that Confucius Institutes cannot continue with what is, for many of the centers, a major part of their mission: providing Chinese-language teachers to elementary and secondary schools.

Read the full article at

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