The director of the Confucius Institute in Lisbon, Teresa Cid, refutes the idea that the Institute, like others worldwide, is at the service of the Chinese regime’s propaganda.
In an interview with TDM Radio, the director argues, “any institution [from any nationality] that teaches a language and culture of any country is [by definition] a space for dissemination of that language and culture,” she said, adding that some people might consider this propaganda, a label that she refuses to accept.
The official gives the example of the Portuguese equivalent (Camões Institute) that also supports the teaching and learning of Portuguese language and culture abroad and by doing so, strengthens the Portuguese presence in those places.
For Cid, the major issue resides in the fact that the dimension and current importance of China in the world panorama makes it a “bigger issue” than other countries.
“It is clear that China has a dimension and a presence in the world today that makes the Confucius Institutes look like a bigger issue [when compared to others],” she said, although noting that each Institute has its own autonomy and they do not necessarily all work in the same way.
She pointed out a few “mistakes” have been committed by other institutions of the same kind in different parts of the world.
“The problems arise, it seems, when the institution itself places people who are responsible for the studies of the Asian world, China or something else at the head of the Confucius Institutes. Perhaps, that causes some questioning as to whether academic freedom is properly safeguarded,” she said, noting that issues might arise not with the Confucius Institute itself but in some cases where the separation of different powers did not occur.
The disclosure of propaganda to students has been a controversial issue, as the Times published last week. Students from Taiwan have criticized exchange programs to mainland China and Macau for being mere propaganda aimed at reinforcing thoughts of unification between China and Taiwan. RM