The Confucius Institutes and China's Evolving Foreign policy
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The Confucius Institutes (CIs) are part of a major new Chinese Government initiative promoting the learning of the Chinese language and culture internationally. They operate through a network of institutes located in learning institutions around the world, and while they have an education focus, they also reflect political changes in China’s relationship with the rest of the world. A transformation in China’s approach to foreign relations has been evident since the belligerence and self-sufficiency of the Mao era, and cautious engagement of the Deng era. In the early 21st century, China’s new foreign policy is more confident and engaged behaviour than it has ever been. The conceptual sources of China’s foreign policy have broadened from Marxism-Leninism to include some contemporary international values and traditional Chinese norms. However, managing the sphere of ideas both domestically and externally, and securing the nation’s economic development, are the main means the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) maintains its legitimacy in the early 21st century. While China’s leadership has given the CIs considerable political independence, they are part of the Party’s propaganda system. Despite some foreign concerns about the Confucius Institutes being a propaganda tool, many other countries have similar programmes; the difference is China’s political system. Through the CIs, China is building the architecture of a major power, and has succeeded in improving its international influence. But because of the lack of international attractiveness of China’s political system, this is likely to be slow. The CIs reflect a more confident and effective Chinese foreign policy; and one that offers greater opportunities for engagement.