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CSU’s Confucius Institute to close at the end of June

A building with a sign in front that says "confucius Institute."
The Confucius Institute at Colorado State University will shut down operations at the end of June. Confucius Institutes across the United States are partially funded by Hanban in China and act as learning centers for language and culture. (Serena Bettis | The Collegian)

Colorado State University’s Confucius Institute will close its doors and end operations at the end of June.

Confucius Institutes are learning centers for Chinese culture and language that are partially supported by the Chinese government. These institutes are located all over the globe and are typically associated with learning institutions, most commonly colleges.  

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Under the new 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the United States Department of Defense will withhold federal grants to any institutions that still operate Confucius Institutes. The DOD provides over $104 million in funding to CSU, and keeping the institute open jeopardizes that funding, according to Kathleen Fairfax, the vice provost for International Affairs at Colorado State University. 

The Colorado State Confucius Institute shutting down is part of a national trend, as the numbers of institutes nationwide have been dwindling due to bipartisan opposition and increasingly tense international relations with China.

Fairfax described the institutes as “soft diplomacy” with the goal of keeping sentiment for Chinese culture alive, but intelligence officials at the federal level have expressed national security concerns. 

“Programs such as Confucius Institutes fund Chinese-language learning and provide the CCP direct access to University officials,” CIA Director William Burns said. “Beijing uses this access to spread positive portrayals of China and steer conversations from topics sensitive to the CCP.” 

The institute is run by local staff from CSU and the Fort Collins community but also employs instructors from China. In addition to instructors, the Chinese government provided $150,000 to help with operation expenses, according to Kevin Nohe, associate director of the Confucius Institute. 

Every year, Nohe and the institute staff draft a budget that outlines all the big picture projects that they want to conduct over the year, and the Chinese government approves it, and Nohe said he and his staff faced no political influence from the Chinese government.  

“The content that we teach and don’t teach at the institute is entirely decided by us and the skill sets of our students,” Nohe said. 

The Colorado State Confucius Institute shutting down is part of a national trend, as the numbers of institutes nationwide have been dwindling due to bipartisan opposition and increasingly tense international relations with China.

The closing of the institute will impact many community members, such as CSU graduate student Elliott Chiu, who has taken classes at the institute since summer 2018. 

Chiu is Chinese and his family knows Cantonese, but he has recently been learning Mandarin and the institute offered affordable private lessons as well as social-cultural events.

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“The institute provided a place not only for instruction (and) learning but also a place to socialize, play mahjong or sing karaoke,” Chiu said.

Chiu said he sees the institute as a means to promote Chinese culture in the community for those who actively sought it, not as a security risk, and he understands relations with China and the U.S. are strained but is sad to see the institute go.

“I have always believed that good relations, be that personal or political, are only improved with communication,” Chiu said. “I felt that the (institute) did just that in a bilateral manner.”

The Confucius Institute will close its doors officially on June 30. More information can be found on their webpage.

Isaiah Dennings can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @isaiah_dennings.

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About the Contributor
Serena Bettis
Serena Bettis, Editor in Chief
Serena Bettis is your 2022-23 editor in chief and is in her final year studying journalism and political science. In her three years at The Collegian, Bettis has also been a news reporter, copy editor, news editor and content managing editor, and she occasionally takes photos, too. When Bettis was 5, her family moved from Iowa to a tiny town northwest of Fort Collins called Livermore, Colorado, before eventually moving to Fort Collins proper. When she was 8 years old, her dad enrolled at Colorado State University as a nontraditional student veteran, where he found his life's passion in photojournalism. Although Bettis' own passion for journalism did not stem directly from her dad, his time at CSU and with The Collegian gave her the motivation to bite down on her fear of talking to strangers and find The Collegian newsroom on the second day of classes in 2019. She's never looked back since. Considering that aforementioned fear, Bettis is constantly surprised to be where she is today. However, thanks to the supportive learning environment at The Collegian and inspiring peers, Bettis has not stopped chasing her teenage dream of being a professional journalist. Between working with her section editors, coordinating news stories between Rocky Mountain Student Media departments and coaching new reporters, Bettis gets to live that dream every day. When she's not in the newsroom or almost falling asleep in class, you can find Bettis working in the Durrell Marketplace and Café or outside gazing at the beauty that is our campus (and running inside when bees are nearby). This year, Bettis' goals for The Collegian include continuing its trajectory as a unique alt-weekly newspaper, documenting the institutional memory of the paper to benefit students in years to come and fostering a sense of community and growth both inside the newsroom and through The Collegian's published work. Bettis would like to encourage anyone with story ideas, suggestions, questions, concerns or comments to reach out to her at editor@collegian.com.

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