China Pursues Soft Power with Expansion of Higher Education, Academics Say
The expansion of Confucius Institutes and pursuit of world-class higher education have emerged as China’s new strategies in international politics, experts on Asian higher education policy reform have suggested.
Professor Joshua Mok Ka-ho, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Chair Professor of Comparative Policy at The Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd), and Dr Pan Su-yan, Associate Professor of the Department of Social Sciences at HKIEd, argued today that while China is rising as a global economic and political power, the country is also extending its soft power with the rapid expansion of Confucius Institutes and the quest for world-class university status.
The academics pointed out that the Confucius Institutes and China’s higher education experienced rapid expansion over the past two decades. Since their inception in 2004, the number of Confucius Institutes has reached 350 and Confucius Classrooms in schools had increased to 500 in 105 countries and regions by November 2011. The country is also striving to enhance the quality of higher education through various forms of policy support, including the consolidation programmes of elite universities, the sponsorship of high-level education events, scholarships for international students and talent schemes to attract highly skilled Chinese expatriates.
Professor Mok said that the growth of higher education and Confucius Institutes had helped promote Chinese language and culture while increasing its international recognition for the country and heightening its influence on the higher education market. However, he warned, quality enhancement of higher education would be equally as important as quantity expansion. He also urged that Chinese tradition and scholarship should not be undermined in the process of soft power expansion.
Professor Mok and Dr Pan spoke at the International Conference on the Re-Emerging China and its Impact on Asia and the United States, at which China Studies scholars and experts from Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, the US and Europe gathered to discuss the rise of China and its impact on the development of Asia and the US.
Speaking at the opening of the conference, Mr Chris Mong, Vice-President (Administration) of HKIEd, said, “The conference comes at the right time as this year marks the 40th anniversary of US President Richard Nixon’s visit to China that laid the groundwork for the eventual establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations. The rise of China shows that the country has continuously worked with the United States and neighbouring countries, and developed a common approach to current global issues such as the environment, climate change and the nature of the G20, among others.”
The two-day conference is featuring discussion on a wide range of topics related to the rise of China, including the country’s international relations, its impact on the global economy, sustainable development and cultural exchange with neighbouring countries, and managing the rise of China in terms of governance, environment and civil society.
In a discussion session tomorrow (13 January), Dr Simon Shen, Associate Professor from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at HKIEd, will discuss the new wave of “Obamania” as a form of soft power being spread in China. Dr Shen will also discuss the results of his study on young Chinese people’s views of the impact of the 2008 US election on the future of China-US relations.
The conference is co-organised by the Centre of Greater China Studies (CGCS) HKIEd; the Department of Sociology at Peking University, mainland China; the College of Social Sciences at National Cheng Chi University, Taiwan; and the Asian Studies Program of Bridgewater State University, United States. More information on the conference is available at http://www.ied.edu.hk/cgcs/.