China’s Propaganda Offensive At A College Near You

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Strange how China exerts such a peculiar hold over the thinking  of political, educational and media establishments world wide, of course commercial factors are hugely dominant and influential for nations entranced by China’s economic allure. However that does not fully explain the degree of accommodation and tolerance extended by the west towards China, an attitude which perhaps has its roots in Orientalism. Admittedly there is much within China’s culture to admire, yet the stench of its blood-soaked tyranny, the censorship, oppression and violent occupation of Tibet and East Turkestan is an ever present distraction that shadows a full appreciation of its diverse and rich traditions. Anyone possessed of integrity and normal intelligence would surely find it challenging not to measure say the enlightened ancient wisdom of the Daoist master Lao Tze against the brutal denial of civil, religious and civil freedoms which have paralyzed China since 1949.

Of course there  those argue that such distinctions can be balanced and Chinese cultural riches celebrated and enjoyed, despite the more odious realities that dominate life in China and occupied territories such as Tibet. That position does of course raise ethical concerns in that such a view either chooses to ignore or relegate the suffering and oppression resulting from China’s regime, by elevating cultural appreciation above human rights and freedom. Through some mental conjuration the executions, forced sterilizations, torture and slave labour camps are shunted off into some dark sidings of indifference, so that full attention may be directed at whatever facet of Chinese culture is being valued or experienced.  It is no accident that as part of its unsleeping propaganda efforts communist China, aware of this willingness to be dazzled by the finery of Chinese culture, engages in a carefully orchestrated  public relations strategy that draws upon western fascination with the more aesthetic elements of Chinese society.

 

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An insidious and  prominent example of this propagandizing is firmly embedded across a swathe of universities, schools, colleges and other educational establishments courtesy of a controversial project known as the Confucius Institute. A body whose headquarters are in Beijing, not surprising given it is an official arm of the communist Chinese Government‘s, Office of Chinese Language Council International. This public institution has as it central aim the promotion of Chinese language and culture and operates worldwide, however unlike similar cultural based organizations such as Germany’s Goethe Institute or France’s Alliance Française, the Confucius Institute operates as an important part of totalitarian regime, with a key mission to promote a more positive image of China abroad. As such it has attracted considerable concern, having extended its somewhat cancerous tentacles across educational establishments around the world, it has been charged with promoting Chinese government views. “Jocelyn Chey, a visiting professor at Sydney and former diplomat, regards the Confucius Institutes as a propaganda vehicle for the Chinese communist party, and negatively influencing academic staff”.

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While governments too have expressed unease at the nature and degree of negative influence, including Sweden which was alarmed the organization was simply a vehicle for Chinese government information. The security services too of a number of countries have been monitoring the Confucius Institute with some alarm, most publicly Canada’s CSIS. A former Asia Bureau Chief of the CSIS noted: “I think there’s a concern from an intelligence point of view, definitely,” said Michel Juneau-Katsuya. “These Confucius organizations have not come out of philanthropic ideals, they are part of a strategy. And they are funded and run by organizations that are linked to Chinese intelligence services.”. India too has expressed serious concern and refused to permit any such offices to be established on Indian territory fearful that they were simply a smokescreen for Chinese propaganda  Even Communist China’s head of propaganda, Mr Li Changchun has reportedly boasted that the Confucius Institutes are “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up” (Economist October 22, 2009).

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Despite such knowledge these institutes of disinformation have been welcomed in a number of countries, most notably perhaps within the United States and England where some prestigious academic institutions have established working associations with the Confucius Institute.   No doubt there is some political influences at work here, in that governments may tolerate and encourage their educational establishment to engage with the Confucius Institute as part of a general appeasement of China to maintain positive relations. There is also among the educational establishment no doubt an innocent appreciation of Chinese culture which sees such programs as a positive project to promote, such thinking is cognisant of China’s dark record of oppression and violence but is insufficiently concerned not to be a willing partner in promoting the values of Chinese culture. However, those Universities that collaborate with the Confucius Institute expose themselves to a number of troubling forces and compromises, as noted by Canadian Nobel Laureate nominee and human rights lawyer, David Matas, who cautions that China’s government officials pressurize universities to censor those who may express a critical or dissenting voice against China. He is concerned that institutions associated with Confucius Institutes are particularly exposed to such influence.  “In some places where we’ve gone, we’ve had last-minute cancellations at universities where they have Confucius Institutes … with no plausible explanation,”.

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Those whose critical faculties have been bewitched by China’s culture seem oblivious of such restrictions and censorship, and indifferent to the corrosive influence they bring. As noted by Juneau-Katsuya, the former CSIS agent, communist China’s espionage activities overseas exploit citizens of the target country, individuals once described by Lenin as “useful idiots.”. These people, in Katusya’s words, “…are so in love with China and so taken with Chinese culture, and so hungry to make friends, that they’re ready to do almost anything. And they will close their eyes to so many different things,”. Would those who rationalize away the atrocities and suppression have held a similar attitude to the cultural refinements of other draconian regimes, would they have oozed admiration for Germany’s high art and language while the Gestapo were surrounding the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw, or attended classes in Cambodian sponsored by Pol Pot’s Khymer Rouge?

2 thoughts on “China’s Propaganda Offensive At A College Near You

  1. Excellent article, point of view. Its good for people to finally wake up to the threat China Inc poses for all of western society. By Saving Tibet, we do save the world…..from Chinese govt domination. Time to boycott all chinese products, until TIbet is freed.

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