Hardliners have hijacked the US' trade policies
Li Haidong, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University
The latest assault on Confucius Institutes in the United States is part of concerted efforts to limit the engagement and exchanges with China by forces hostile to China. Even the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission affiliated to the US Congress, in its annual report issued in November, has demanded that Chinese media outlets in the US be listed as "foreign agents".
The Foreign Agents Registration Act was enacted in 1938 to restrict political propaganda by Nazi Germany. According to the US Department of Justice, the act requires people acting as agents of foreign powers in a political or quasi-political capacity to disclose their relationship with the foreign government, and their related activities, including receipts and disbursements of funds. However, the wanton or dubious use of FARA will create serious problems for even normal cultural and civil exchanges between China and the US.
This raises the question: Why some US politicians are targeting cultural programs and exchanges organized by China? The fact is, what we see today is the inevitable development of the debate on China's policies in the US from 2014 to 2016, which gave US hardliners the upper hand in bilateral relations. The debate also revealed the Trump administration is reducing its engagement and increasing its efforts to contain China.
New fronts have opened up in the "anti-China war" thanks to the efforts of the hardliners. Given these facts, the targeting of Chinese cultural and exchange programs by certain US politicians is not hard to explain. Policies unfavorable to China and Sino-US relations are being introduced because there are no political elements to effectively counter the hardliners' assault on China. This shows the tide has turned in Sino-US relations and US President Donald Trump is only following the trend, which incidentally he also helped start.
Despite the US' confrontational moves, however, China can still take some measures to ease tensions on this front. For instance, it can encourage nongovernmental exchanges to clear the US' doubts over government-funded programs. But more dexterity and agility should be applied when dealing with Sino-US ties in these gloomy times.
US has no reason to doubt Chinese culture
Wang Lili, deputy dean of National Academy of Development and Strategy, and an associate professor at Renmin University of China
Certain US politicians and opinion leaders have increasingly labeled China's cultural programs in and exchanges with the US states as activities aimed at exporting authoritarianism, with Confucius Institutes bearing the brunt. Some of them have even used a concocted concept of "sharp power" to question China's overseas cultural activities.
Reflecting the Cold-War mentality and double standard, it can be seen as part of the China-containment strategy adopted by some Western countries. Voices in favor of containing China and engaging in strategic competition with it have taken hold in the US media and other fields, with some anti-China hawks giving the bugle call for battle. This should explain why Chinese overseas cultural exchange programs, including those through Confucius Institutes, have been targeted.
Yet China urgently needs to conduct public diplomacy and strengthen cultural exchanges with other countries, including the US, as these are major channels to improve soft power and the national image, build trust and promote peace. To achieve this goal, the following measures should be taken.
First, public diplomacy should be diversified to fully mobilize the non-governmental forces, including think tanks, mass media and business enterprises. Second, the importance of Chinese culture should be explained. And third, new media should be wisely and extensively used to better conduct public diplomacy and spread Chinese culture.
The peaceful rise of China is an irreversible trend. So, the US should abandon its prejudices against China and properly evaluate China's public diplomacy and cultural exchange programs. Only through all-embracing cultural exchanges that seek harmony in diversity can we make the world a better, more diverse and colorful place for future generations.