TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Overseas Community Affairs Council (OCAC) Minister Tung Chen-yuan (童振源) arrived in the U.S. in late August to attend the opening ceremonies for Taiwan Centers for Mandarin Learning across major cities in the country, marking a milestone in the Taiwan-U.S. relationship, reported CNA.
According to the Taiwan Center for Mandarin Learning Establishment Program, the OCAC seeks to “promote mandarin with Taiwanese characteristics overseas” by working with “compatriot schools” that it has already registered.
The program was quickly compared to China’s infamous Confucius Institute (CI), which was widely criticized for the lack of academic freedom and suppression of topics sensitive to China. Tung said Taiwan’s Chinese language education offers a “free, democratic, and diverse learning environment,” which the CI could never do.
He added that Taiwan’s free and open environment not only meets American demand for Chinese-language learning, but also relieves it of political influence.
The U.S. Department of State declared CI “a foreign propaganda mission” in August 2020 following a series of CI closures across North America and Europe. In December, the U.S. signed the “U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative” with Taiwan.
CNA cites Irvine’s Deputy Mayor Tammy Kim as saying, “The establishment of the Taiwan Center for Mandarin Learning is key to the U.S., as it happened just after the Confucius Institute lost its ability to teach languages in the country.”
Of the 18 Taiwan Centers for Mandarin Learning planned to open this year, 15 will be in the U.S., and three will be in the U.K., Germany, and France, according to the OCAC.
In contrast to China’s promotion of Chinese language by teaching only simplified Chinese, Minister Tung said the OCAC will provide traditional Chinese materials, in order to highlight the language’s cultural values. The Taiwan Center for Mandarin Learning will also allow students to choose from writing systems such as Bopomofo and pinyin.