Confucius Institutes benefit US economy, culture

By Li Qikeng Published: 2012-6-18 22:27:00

Confucius Institutes (CIs) and Confucius Classrooms (CCs) have mushroomed in the US since the establishment of the first CI at the University of Maryland in 2004. Currently there are 81 CIs and more than 300 CCs in the US. The Confucius Institute at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (CI-UHM) was established in 2006. Since its establishment, the CI-UHM has contributed greatly to the US, both educationally and economically, via academic activities and cultural exchanges.

The CI-UHM has fostered mutual understanding and friendship between China and the US. To date, the CI-UHM’s partner university, Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) has sent 13 co-directors, teachers and volunteers to take up terms of one to two years at the CI-UHM. All have been warmly welcomed by the university, the local schools, and the community. Through their interactions with the Americans, both sides have learned much more about each other, and have forged friendly relations in the process.

The CI-UHM has helped with the teaching of foreign languages in Hawaii in general and of Chinese in particular, mainly in two ways.

The first is by co-sponsoring the annual Hawaii Association of Language Teachers (HALT) conferences and organizing Chinese language teacher trainings. With sponsorship from the CI-UHM, HALT has been able invite nationally known foreign language educators and researchers as keynote speakers of the annual conferences.
The second is by teaching Chinese to local school students as well as adult learners. In the academic year 2011-12, CI-UHM sent, upon request, volunteer teachers to teach at four elementary schools in the Kaiser Complex on Oahu and one volunteer teacher to teach at Pa’auilo Elementary and Intermediate School on the Big Island. These teachers were well-liked by the students.
Furthermore, CI-UHM has enthusiastically promoted cultural exchanges, benefiting tens of thousands of people in Hawaii. In 2012 alone, CI-UHM has organized four performances in Hawaii featuring Chinese culture. CI-UHM has also taken an active part in promoting US culture to the Chinese people.
Last but not least, CI-UHM has contributed to the US economy. The CI-UHM has received project funding from CI Headquarters, each year amounting to around $150,000, the overwhelming majority of which is spent in the US.

The CI-UHM has also invited university art troupes from China to perform in Hawaii each year since 2010. These troupes generally tour to 3-5 different US cities each year, performing two to four times at each city, with all expenses covered by CI Headquarters.  Each troupe spends around $30,000 on things like accommodation, meals, and transportation in each city, excluding air fares generally paid to US airlines. In addition, each of the 20-30 members of an art troupe spends, on average, $3,000 on shopping in the US.

Each of CI-UHM’s Chinese staff spends more than $30,000 each year in the US. Furthermore, family members, relatives, and friends of the Chinese staff may live with them or visit them in the US, which means more spending in the US, especially on traveling, shopping and catering.

To sum up, the CI-UHM has brought multi-faceted benefits to Hawaii, ultimately contributing positively to Sino-US mutual understanding and friendship.

The author has worked as the PRC co-director of CI-UHM since August 2010. A Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence from 2006-07, he is a beneficiary of US-China cultural exchange.

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