China's Confucius Institutes: Crossing the River by Feeling the Stones

Maria Wey-Shen Siow
Content Type
Policy Brief
East-West Center
Many observers view China's overseas Confucius Institutes as the most visible symbols of China's growing soft power, and a tool for the country to expand its international influence and advance its public diplomacy agenda. The institutes were first established in 2004, with the first institute opening in Seoul. The primary goal of these institutions is to promote Mandarin Chinese language learning. Other functions include promoting Chinese culture and developing positive opinions of China within a global setting. Modeled along the lines of Germany's Goethe-Institut and France's Alliance Fran├žaise, there are currently 320 Confucius Institutes in 96 countries with over 230,000 registered students. Apart from language classes, the institutes organize a wide variety of cultural activities ranging from music, calligraphy, cooking, and traditional Chinese medicine to hosting talks on China's economy, history, culture and society. China aims to open one thousand Confucius Institutes by 2020.
Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Power Politics
Political Geography
China, Asia, France