Upset at India’s big review of Confucius institutes tomorrow, China says ‘be fair’

The Chinese statement on Confucius institutes’ review is a deliberate attempt to put the education ministry on a defensive, said a government official
The review of higher education tie-ups with Chinese institutions comes at a time military and diplomatic-level talks between India and China have made little progress.(AFP)
The review of higher education tie-ups with Chinese institutions comes at a time military and diplomatic-level talks between India and China have made little progress.(AFP)
Updated on Aug 04, 2020 05:13 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByShishir Gupta

Nearly 24 hours before India begins a comprehensive review of local chapters of Confucius Institutes and agreements with Indian universities, Beijing on Tuesday asked New Delhi to treat India-China higher education in an “objective and fair manner”. In a statement, the Chinese embassy asked India to avoid what it described as “politicisation of normal cooperation” between the two countries and maintain stable people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

Hindustan Times had first reported the government’s move to review the institutes after intelligence agencies raised security concerns around these institutes. The agencies had also pointed out that many central universities and institutes had gone ahead to sign pacts with Chinese institutes without basic approvals from the Centre.

Also Read: Security agencies red-flag Chinese fronts in education, not just power and telecom

The security alert came against the backdrop of a standoff between soldiers of the two countries along the Line of Actual Control in East Ladakh that has stretched for over 90 days and mounting concerns in parts of the world over the misuse of institutions funded by the Chinese government for activities other than academics.

The review, to be carried out jointly by the higher education regulator University Grants Commission and the education ministry, is scheduled to be held on Wednesday.

A senior education ministry official rejected the insinuation that the review is a political exercise as claimed by the Chinese embassy.

“The review is being conducted to understand the functioning of these institutes and syllabus… The review is being conducted from an academic perspective,” the official told Hindustan Times.

The official added that he could not prejudge the outcome of the review.

Also Read: China moves PLA battalion across India’s Lipulekh Pass. It’s a signal

The Confucius Institutes are directly funded by the Ministry of Education of People’s Republic of China with the ostensible aim to promote Chinese language and Culture.

But they have come in for criticism all around the world, including the US and the UK for helping spread Chinese propaganda. Already, ranking members of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee have been quoted saying that Confucius Institutes are part of the overseas propaganda to project Beijing’s soft power.

Wednesday’s review is also scheduled to take up the 54 memoranda of understanding signed by central universities and institutions with Chinese universities. This exercise, besides evaluating the academic outcome of the agreements, will also take a hard look at compliance issues. For one, if the universities, colleges and institutions took permission from the Centre (until recently, the ministry of HRD) or the ministry of external affairs before signing the MoUs with Chinese universities or Hanban.

Also Read: China is making it clear it won’t budge. Respond accordingly | HT Editorial

“We have been talking about peace and tranquillity with China since 1993. But does that stop the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) from attempting to nibble at the Line of Control,” a second government official said, responding to Beijing’s call to be “objective and fair”.

“All we are doing is reviewing the functioning of institutes and operationalising the MoUs. It is not done with a pre-determined mind to close them. We want to know what is in it for Indian students and India,” he said.

Officials in India’s security establishment, however, have been pushing for action against Chinese interests on the lines of the ban on over 100 Chinese mobile apps and barring firms based in China from getting government contracts without specific approval.

The Confucius Institutes in India to be reviewed are at: University of Mumbai; Vellore Institute of Technology; Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar; OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat; School of Chinese Language, Kolkata; Bharathiar University, Coimbatore; and KR Mangalam University, Gurugram.

According to central government documents accessed by HT, the list of 54 MoUs that will be reviewed this week at a high-level committee are:

IIT Kharagpur - (1) Tianjin University, (2) Henan Polytechnic University [HPU], (3) Chang Gung University

IIT Bombay - (1) Central University of Finance and Economics, (2) Tongji University

IIT Madras - (1) Beijing Jiaotong University, (2) Huazhong University of Sciences and Technology, (3) Shanghai International Studies University, (4) Dalian University

IIT Delhi - (1) Chang’an University, (2) City University Of Hong Kong Hiksar Peoples & Republic of China, (3) China Jiliang University, (4) Nanyang Normal University

IIT Guwahati - (1) Hunan University, (2) Shantou University, (3) Soochow University, (4) University of Macau, (5) Yunnan University

IIT Gandhinagar - (1) Confucius Institute Headquarters [HANBAN]

IIT Roorkee - (1) The Center for Monsoon System Research of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at Chinese Academy of Sciences, (2) East China Normal University [ECNU]

IIT Bhubaneswar - (1) Engineering Centre of Materials, Manufacturing, School of Materials Science & Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong - University, China [during state visit of President of India to China]

NIT Durgapur - (1) Tianjin Polytechnic University, (2) Hohai University, (3) Integrated Risk Governance Project, Future Earth Program [hereafter IRGP/FE], Beijing Normal University, (4) Southwest University for Nationalities [SWUN], Chengdu, (5) Beijing Normal University, (6) School of Materials Science and Engineering, Jiangsu University, (7) Hunan University, Changsha, Hunan

NIT Surathkal - (1) Institute of Radio Frequency and optoelectronics Integrated Circuits plus State Key Lab of Bioelectronics, Southeast University

NIT Warangal - (1) Chang’an University

IISER Kolkata - (1) Hubei University, (2) Changshu Institute of Technology

IISC Bangalore - (1) China University of Geosciences

Jawaharlal Nehru University - (1) Tsinghua University, (2) Beijing Normal University, (3) Shandong University, Jinan, (4) Guiyang University, Guiyang, Guizhou, (5) Tongren University, Tongren, Guizhou, (6) Guizhou Minzu University, (7) Sichuan University of People’s Republic of China, (8) Jinan University, (9) Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences/ the Chinese [Kunming] Academy of South and Southeast Asian Studies, (10) Yunnan Minzu University, (11) Shenzhen University, Guangdong, (12) Renmin University of China, Beijing

Manipur University - (1) Yunnan Open University

Central University of Punjab - (1) Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, (2) Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan

Banaras Hindu University - (1) Soochow University, School of Law, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China (2)Beijing Language and Culture University, (3) Beijing Foreign Studies University, (4) North China University of Water Resources & Electric Power, (5) Dali University

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