Government spokesman says it would be “disproportionate” to shutter the education centers.
May 17, 2023
The U-turn, first reported by TalkTV, has already infuriated some China hawks on the Conservative backbenches | Pool photo by Liam McBurney via Getty Images
LONDON — The U.K. government won’t shut down Chinese-state sponsored Confucius Institutes across the country despite a Conservative leadership pledge made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
A British government spokesman confirmed Wednesday it would be “disproportionate” to ban the 30 institutes, which promote and teach Chinese culture and Mandarin language and which are attached to universities across the U.K.
Sunak had promised to close all of them during his first run for the Conservative leadership in July 2022, arguing that they serve as a tool to promote Chinese soft power. “We recognise concerns about overseas interference in our higher education sector, including through Confucius Institutes, and regularly assess the risks facing academia,” the spokesman said. “We are taking action to remove any government funding from Confucius Institutes in the U.K., but currently judge that it would be disproportionate to ban them.”
The U-turn, first reported by TalkTV, has already infuriated some China hawks on the Conservative backbenches, and comes after former Prime Minister Liz Truss urged his successor to close down the institutes “immediately,” in a speech in Taiwan.
“Last summer the now British prime minister described China as ‘the biggest long-term threat to Britain’ and said the Confucius Institutes should be closed. He was right and we need to see those policies enacted urgently,” Truss said.