According to The Guardian, the United Kingdom is reaching out to Taiwanese for Mandarin-related lessons on its soil.
A bipartisan group of Members of Parliament (MPs) is contacting Taiwan for Mandarin-speaking teachers to participate in the country’s education.
It is part of a plan to uproot the controversial Confucius Institutes, funded and run by the Chinese government. The U.S. has also been rushing to phase out the programs, with the Washington Examiner reporting about 100 or so closed in 2021.
British MP Alicia Kearns urged the Taiwanese government to become more proactive in offering another option for British people who want to learn Mandarin. She thinks it will also benefit the relationship and provide more exchange opportunities between both countries.
As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Kearns expressed her concerns over the academic freedom of Confucius Institutes and the fact that they do not provide correct historical education. She said, “That needs to end.”
In 2020, the then U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the Confucius Institutes a Chinese government foreign mission and referred to them as “an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign on U.S. campuses and K-12 classrooms.”
The search for Taiwanese teachers came amid a growing sensation of Britain “finally waking up to China’s influence operations,” as described by author and former foreign correspondent Ian Williams.
The Prime Minister of the U.K. Liz Truss was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Childcare and Education in 2014. She touted the Confucius classrooms as a strong infrastructure for Mandarin in the U.K. But she has recently become less fond of the Chinese government. The Guardian notes that the current U.K. prime minister is ready to designate China as an “acute threat” to Britain’s national security.
According to research released in June by the China Research Group, university-based Confucius Institutes get almost all of the British government’s funding for Chinese language lessons in schools. The government spending for 2015-2024 will be at least 27 million pounds (nearly $31 million).
The Confucius Institute now has 30 branches open throughout the U.K. The MPs are planning to redirect the fund to other ones, including those from Taiwan.