The University of Idaho is holding what it calls a "welcoming event" today in the opening of its new Confucius Institute.
Partnering with the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou, China, the U of I says its Confucius Institute will "further the understanding of Chinese language and culture, to encourage faculty and student exchange."
The first Confucius Institute opened in Seoul, South Korea, in 2004. Most U.S.-based Confucius Institutes are located in state universities or regional colleges. There are more than 60 Confucius Institutes in the United States, 14 in France, 11 in Germany, 13 in Britain and others in Eastern Europe and Asia. The Chinese government typically pays to start the centers and for a portion of their continuing costs.
But the institute doesn't come without some controversy. Opposition to institutes at the University of Chicago, and universities in Australia, Canada and Sweden when some professors worried that a Confucius Institute might interfere with academic freedom and possibly censor speech on topics the Communist Party of China might object to. Additionally, the Washington, D.C.-based Chronicle of Higher Education wrote in October 2010 the institutes were "distinct in the degree to which they were financed and managed by a foreign government."
And in a March 4, 2012, article in the New York Times, June Teufel Dreyer, who teaches Chinese government and foreign policy at the University of Miami, cautioned that, "You're told not to discuss the Dalai Lama—or to invite the Dalai Lama to campus. Tibet, Taiwan, China's military buildup, factional fights inside the Chinese leadership—these are all off limits."
Arthur Waldron, a professor of international relations at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Times, "Once you have a Confucius Institute on campus, you have a second source of opinions and authority that is ultimately answerable to the Chinese Communist party and which is not subject to scholarly review."