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Citing Pressure, UNH Ends Contract With China-Funded Confucius Institute

picture of huddleston hall exterior

The University of New Hampshire is ending a partnership with the Confucius Institute, a controversial educational group funded by the Chinese government.

Confucius Institutes operate at colleges and universities in the U.S., providing Chinese language classes as well as cultural and exchange programs, often at little or no cost to the universities. 

Critics including U.S. intelligence officials caution that the institutes function as propaganda arms of the Chinese Communist party. 

Citing rising pressure from Washington, UNH says it will end its partnership on July 30.

“We made the difficult decision to close it due to amplified concerns in Washington about security and influence. The federal government has made it increasingly difficult for us to operate the Institute, including the real possibility of losing significant federal research funding if we do not close the institute,” said Erika Mantz, a UNH spokesperson. 

UNH first partnered with the Institute in 2010, and renewed a five-year contractin 2019.

The program has a modest presence on campus, including three language instructors and two study abroad programs to Chengdu, China, according to its website.

In 2018, Christopher Wray, then director of the FBI told lawmakers that “the Confucius Institutes are a source of concern, but we view those more as part of China’s soft power strategy and influence.” He added that they “offer a platform to disseminate Chinese government or Chinese communist party propaganda, to encourage censorship, to restrict academic freedom, etcetera. So it is an area of concern.” 

UNH has taken steps to curtail potential influence by the Institute on its campus, including limiting instruction to language classes, and creating an oversight board to monitor the program.

It isn’t clear what impact the Institute's closure may have on language offerings next fall at UNH.

In a statement, the school said it hopes “to continue our strong partnership with Chengdu University” which predates the school’s relationship with Confucius Institute.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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