Cultural Statecraft: the Confucius Institute project in Australia

Kieran Donelly
The last several decades have seen China continue to grow its position as a significant power in regional and world affairs. One such strategy for cultivating its international image has been the Confucius Institute (CI) project, a centrally-coordinated network of not-for profit bodies tasked with promoting Chinese language and culture in overseas educational institutions. Australia has become host to one of the largest number of CIs in a single country, with fourteen CIs established in
more » ... an partnering institutions to date. By focusing on the CI project in Australia's domestic context, an interesting question arises: Why has the Chinese government promoted the growth of the Confucius Institute project in Australia and elsewhere ? I argue that the Chines e state has used the CI project as one of its key mechanisms of cultural statecraft, facilitating China's national development in the same manner as its broader statecraft apparatus . Drawing upon primary research including interviews with employees of the CIs, I show that the government has coordinated the CI Project through a loosely centralised model in which individual CIs are delegated with sufficiently high levels of autonomy over their operation and management. This allows the Chinese state to efficintly promote the learning of Chinese culture and the Chinese language in much the same benign manner as the efforts of other governments. However, given the relatively poor level of transparency in the CI project's operations in educational institutions throughout Australia, the possibility for the CIs to be used as tools of the Chinese state's sharp power cannot be discounted.
doi:10.25949/19427951.v1 fatcat:xbuzkydlzrerppqn4sads3lgy4