Overseas Community Affairs Council Minister Tung Chen-yuan (童振源) has arrived in the US to oversee the opening of language learning centers in several cities.
At the opening of the Taiwan Center for Mandarin Learning at the Irvine Chinese School in Orange County, California, on Thursday, Tung said that the centers would provide liberal-minded learning programs, which is an advantage over China-run Confucius Institutes.
Tung on Tuesday oversaw the opening of another center in Los Angeles.
The government initiative came after the US Department of State in August last year flagged US-based Confucius Institutes as “foreign missions,” requiring them to adhere to restrictions similar to those applied to embassies.
Subsequently, Washington began searching for an alternative source of Chinese-language instruction and signed a memorandum of understanding with Taiwan in December last year.
Tung said that Beijing’s constant meddling in US academic affairs has become intolerable, and Taiwan’s free institutions are ready to help.
Taiwanese own or are affiliated to 361 schools in the US, and 7,800 Taiwanese work as language teachers in the country, Tung said, calling Taiwanese presence an immense grass-roots resource that the program can rely on.
During his three-week stay, Tung is also scheduled to oversee the openings of centers in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington and New York City.
Taiwan is also to establish three centers in Europe — in the UK, France and Germany — he said.
Asked whether the centers would compete with Confucius Institutes, Tung said: “We are not challenging the Confucius Institutes. We are working with the US government to put Taiwan’s advantages to use.”
The opening ceremony in Irvine was also attended by several local leaders.
Irvine Vice Mayor Tammy Kim said that Washington regards Chinese as one of eight languages that are vital to US national security.
The centers’ programs would provide a crucial service following the closure of some Confucius Institutes, she said.
Former Lake Forest mayor Scott Voigts said that Taiwan is an important US ally, and a free and democratic country that is significant to the world.
Yorba Linda Mayor Peggy Huang said that as a Taiwanese-American, she welcomes the language centers.
The program would help younger Taiwanese-Americans appreciate the beauty of Taiwan and educate the US public about the differences between the nation and China, she said.
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