Hanban, the parent organization of Chinese Communist Party-funded Confucius Institutes, has rebranded itself as the Ministry of Education Centre for Language Education and Cooperation following an onslaught of bad press for spearheading China’s international propaganda campaign.
Hanban ditched its 16-year-old name in hopes to abandon the baggage associated with its Chinese Communist Party (CCP) links. While Confucius Institutes – which operate on over 90 American college campuses and hundreds of K-12 schools – are keen on masquerading as “language and culture” initiatives, Hanban’s status as CCP funded and controlled compelled critics to view them as the party’s international propaganda arm.
Confucius Institutes, however, will not change their names, and CCP-run media’s reporting on the matter reveal the shift is in name only, as no substantive changes have been made to address the concerns of those wary of the program’s government ties:
“The move will better facilitate Chinese language teaching overseas and disperse the Western misinterpretation that the organization served as China’s ideological marketing machine, analysts said.”
In other words, it’s purely a publicity stunt, and a much-needed one in light of a series of exposés divulging the extent of Hanban’s propaganda campaign.
The National Pulse revealed Hanban pushes teachers to use textbooks written by a CCP committee identified by the U.S. government’s China Economic and Security Review Commission as seeking to “mobilize” individuals to “advocate for the interests of the CCP.” The program has also led to Chinese state military parades airing in fourth-grade classrooms alongside a Confucius Institute teacher’s quest to instill Chinese “morality and values” on American students.
What’s more, the National Pulse unearthed how the program coerced American schoolchildren to participate in a pen pal exchange with Chinese president Xi Jinping and has targetted classrooms even at the kindergarten level for years.
The change did not take the form of an official statement, however, and the Hanban website is still accessible. The newly-named Ministry of Education Centre for Language Education and Cooperation circulated the news via Chinese social media and the change was confirmed in light of state-run media’s use of the term while covering the 2020 National Chinese Language Conference.
While the CCP can ditch Hanban in favor of the Ministry of Education Centre for Language Education and Cooperation – straight from the pages of George Orwell’s 1984 – it doesn’t change the fact the organization’s raison d’être is to spread Chinese Communist propaganda.