An investigation of China’s Confucius Institutes in the UK

Think tank: The Henry Jackson Society

Author(s): Sam Dunning; Anson Kwong

October 12, 2022

This report from UK think tank the Henry Jackson Society looks at how Confucius Institutes are not a form of ‘soft power’.

The UK alarmingly hosts the largest number of Confucius Institutes worldwide, according to the Henry Jackson Society’s latest report. The paper, released today, uncovers how Confucius Institutes are a direct extension of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Propaganda Department. The authors, Sam Dunning and Anson Kwong, highlight how Confucius Institutes are not a form of ‘soft power’. Rather than fulfilling their supposed purpose of promoting the Chinese culture and language, Confucius Institutes have also been informing UK government policy, establishing science and technology partnerships, and consulting with major UK organisations. Despite these concerns, the report finds that the UK’s Confucius Institutes have received £33,426,300 in funding from Chinese sources. Additionally, Confucius Institutes’ staff from China must undergo political vetting and vow to follow Chinese law whilst abroad. To combat the infiltration of the CCP’s Confucius Institutes throughout the UK, the paper concludes with a series of recommendations: The UK government should introduce legislation to remove Confucius Institutes from UK universities. There must be an immediate investigation regarding the legality of Confucius Institutes’ staff recruitment practices. The UK government should add an amendment to the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill that demands academic partnerships with foreign powers preserve the freedom of speech and comply with equality legislation. The UK government should provide £5 million in funding for UK universities to allocate to China studies and bolstering knowledge regarding China’s presence in the UK. The UK government should work with other countries that speak Mandarin, especially Taiwan, to develop new Chinese culture and language programmes.