Tensions between the American and Chinese governments and their militaries are not uncommon. But the relationship between the two countries is improving in some areas such as the arts and education.
Supporters of this growing relationship believe this is producing economic and cultural benefits for citizens of both countries. Opponents in the United States, however, see it as dangerous.
Susan Pertel Jain is the executive director of the University of California, Los Angeles Confucius Institute. She says American parents want their children to learn Chinese.
“If they know Chinese, if they know English, if they have some cultural experience, international experience -- that can really put them in a different place.”
China has been paying for Chinese language and culture programs through the Confucius Institutes.
Carol Chen teaches Mandarin immersion classes to kindergarten students at Broadway elementary school, a public school in Los Angeles. She says the University of California, Los Angeles Confucius Institute has been a good resource for her school.
“One of the years, they actually brought in Chinese folk culture tradition to the campus.”
China has opened almost 500 Confucius Institutes throughout the world. Most of them are on university campuses.
Perry Link, of the University of California, Riverside has been a long-time critic of China’s efforts. He says Confucius Institutes are an example of China’s soft power.
“Hard power is military things. Soft power is cultural or educational things that cause people in other countries to view one’s own country in a more friendly way.”
Link says having Confucius Institutes on university campuses is troubling because it limits academic freedom to discuss China’s human rights issues.
“It’s induced self-censorship -- that is ‘We are going to give you these funds and you can invite speakers about China and the fund comes from Beijing and you know that and we know that.’ Now, as the director of a Confucius Institute, do you think ‘Oh, I’ll invite the Dalai Lama’ to speak? No. Of course you don’t do that…Beijing wishes the Confucius Institutes would completely grab everyone’s sympathies and attention. I don’t think that’s happened.”
But Susan Pertel Jain says the institute does not censor itself.
“Whether it’s artists that we present there who were active in sort of (an) anti-government movement or whether it’s the screening of films that are maybe not officially approved by the government, we don’t shy away from that, but what we always tell our colleagues in China is that we promise to always present everything in a fair and balanced way.”
I’m Mario Ritter.
VOA Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reported this story from Los Angeles. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
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Words in This Story
benefit – n. a good or helpful effect
immersion – adj. to be completely involved in some activity
resource – n. something that provides money or other needed things
induce – v. to cause to do something
sympathies – n. a feeling that a person cares about something
censor – v. to remove things that are considered wrong
screen – v. to watch a movie or video
shy away – v. to avoid something because of nervousness