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US lawmakers suggest letting Taiwan fill void left by Confucius Institutes

Republicans urge Washington to replace Chinese government-affiliated Confucius Institutes with Taiwan’s Mandarin programs

Beijing-sponsored Confucius Institutes labeled as Chinese propaganda arm. 

Beijing-sponsored Confucius Institutes labeled as Chinese propaganda arm.  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A group of Republican lawmakers recently penned a letter to the U.S. Department of Education suggesting it replace the Chinese government-affiliated Confucius Institutes with Taiwan's Mandarin language programs.

As more Confucius Institutes are shuttered at university campuses across the U.S. due to concerns over Chinese influence, scholars and politicians are advocating getting Taiwan to fill the Mandarin-teaching vacuum. American Institute in Taiwan Director Brent Christensen has said the shift would allow Taiwanese Mandarin instructors to share democratic narratives with American students.

In a letter addressed to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in March, 21 members of Congress suggested having Taiwanese teach Mandarin lessons at universities as a "censorship-free alternative" to Chinese cultural centers. Led by Senator Marsha Blackburn and Representative Michelle Steel, the signatories urged Washington to expand the U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative and develop more educational programs with Taiwan to meet the demand for Mandarin studies in the U.S.

Confucius Institutes, which receive a significant amount of funding from Beijing, have come under scrutiny in a number of countries after being accused of trying to advance China's political agenda on campuses. Since 2017, 53 of the 103 Confucius Institutes across the U.S. have been shut down, while eight of the remaining ones are expected to suffer the same fate, according to the National Association of Scholars.