In recent years, China has shifted its focus from Asia to the EU and the US, Hsiao said.
“If you look at the global map of Confucius Institutes, you can see the hierarchy of importance. Europe and North America now have more than three-fourths of all the institutes,” he said.
The initiative is aimed at persuading international society to recognize a new and benign China — it is rising with a civilized, democratic, open and progressive image, despite the fact that it remains unsupportive of human rights, he said.
Chang Mau-kuei (張茂桂), a research fellow at Academic Sinica’s Institute of Sociology, said that through the establishment of the institutes, Beijing tries to use Confucianism to define China.
However, “it is always a problem to use Confucianism to represent China,” Chang said.
“In China, Confucius temples were never built by the people. They were always built by the state, by the empire, by the dynasty. Confucianism is a state ideology. Even today, on Confucius’ birthday, it’s the state leaders or the mayors who go there to pray. So we can say Confucius represents guan wen hua [官文化, official culture], not China,” Chang said.
Confucianism is only part of China, Chang added.
“You have to add Muslim, Uyghurs, Tibetans, Buddhism and numerous minority people to encapsulate the entire China,” he said.
The institutes serve as “state cosmetics” and do not help understanding of the real China, Chang said.