China’s Confucius Institute Project: Language and Soft Power in World Politics

By Jeffrey Gil.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Soft power is increasingly seen as an important asset for
states to accomplish their goals and spread their influence
in today’s globalising world. Since the late 1990s, China
has placed considerable emphasis on soft power in its
foreign policy and international relations. In the Chinese
view, the Chinese language is seen as an important source of
soft power, and the promotion of Chinese language learning
as a way of increasing and spreading China’s soft power. The
main way in which China promotes Chinese language learning
is through the establishment outside of China of Chinese
language and culture institutions called Confucius
Institutes. Although there is an increasing number of
studies of China’s soft power, and some of them do mention
Confucius Institutes, few attempts have been made to review
the Confucius Institute Project and assess its contribution
to achieving China’s goals and increasing its influence in
world politics. This paper aims to address this gap. It
begins by defining soft power and how this concept is seen
by China, then outlines the current scope and extent of the
Confucius Institute Project. It argues that China has
successfully established Confucius Institutes in an
impressive array of countries and regions, but the actual
influence and benefits China derives from this project are
currently limited to shaping preferences in language
learning and attitudes towards China.

Keywords: China, Chinese Language Learning, Confucius Institute, Soft Power

Global Studies Journal, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.59-72. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.198MB).

Dr. Jeffrey Gil

Lecturer, ESOL/TESOL, Languages, School of Humanities, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Jeffrey Gil has a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours in Languages and Applied Linguistics, Graduate Certificate in Second Language Teaching (TESOL) and PhD from Griffith University, Australia. He is currently Lecturer in ESOL/TESOL at Flinders University and has taught undergraduate English language topics and postgraduate applied linguistics topics in China. His research interests include the use and status of the Chinese language in the world and ethnic minorities and minority languages in China.

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