Strings Attached to Funds From China

November 2, 2011

Stanford University initially turned down an offer from an organization with ties to China's government for $4 million that would have, in part, endowed a professorship in Chinese culture and language because one condition would have barred professors hired with the funds from talking about Tibet, Bloomberg reported. The funds came through the organization sponsoring Confucius Institutes at many American colleges and universities. (Stanford subsequently accepted the funds in another way, supporting programs for which the Tibet issue didn't come up, and so avoiding the question of Tibet.) Officials from many of the colleges that have taken the funds said that the institutes did not have such strings attached to their funds. But some Asian studies scholars see much too close a connection between the funds and various ambitions of China's government. "By peddling a product we want, namely Chinese language study, the Confucius Institutes bring the Chinese government into the American academy in powerful ways," said Jonathan Lipman, a professor of Chinese history at Mount Holyoke College. "The general pattern is very clear. They can say, 'We’ll give you this money, you’ll have a Chinese program, and nobody will talk about Tibet.' In this economy, turning them down has real costs."


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