(Minghui.org) The last Confucius classroom in Sweden closed in the southern Swedish town of Falkenberg in April 2020. According to The Times of London, Sweden is the first European nation to close all of its Confucius Institutes and classrooms. In addition, a number of Swedish cities, including its second-largest city Gothenburg, had severed sister-city agreements with their Chinese counterparts. 

Given the fact that the first Confucius Institute established in Europe was at Stockholm University in 2005, the latest development in Sweden's distancing itself from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is a significant step.

A Covert Propaganda Organization, Not an Educational Concern

Although most people in China have never heard of Confucius Institutes, they are “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up,” according to Li Changchun, a former head of propaganda for the CCP.

Confucius Institutes are run by the Chinese Language Council International, or “Hanban,” a sub-bureau under China's Ministry of Education. According to its official website, Hanban has established a total of 541 Confucius Institutes and 1,170 Confucius classrooms in 158 countries and regions since 2004. It serves as a key platform for the Chinese communist regime to exert its “soft power” and influence around the world.

These institutes and classrooms operate within established schools or universities, and Hanban provides teachers, educational materials, and, most importantly, funding for the operation. On the surface, the goal is to promote the Chinese language and enhance cultural exchange. But, in fact, its real purpose is an opportunity for Beijing to export communist ideology and brainwash local students. It’s reported that Chairman Mao's quotations were included in some textbooks.

The Chinese government controls nearly every aspect of Confucius Institutes, according to a report by Radio Free Asia (RFA). The contract the host school signs states that the laws of both China and the host nation apply, that public disclosure of the contract is limited, and that the contract will be terminated if the host school does something the Chinese government does not like. 

All teachers hired by Hanban are required to sign a contract agreeing not to participate in Falun Gong activities. Hanban also insists that the host schools avoid topics related to Tibet, Taiwan, the Tiananmen Square Massacre, and Falun Gong in their classrooms.

In recent years, Confucius Institutes have been associated with Chinese intelligence agencies for their roles in recruiting and spying on overseas Chinese students.

In October 2019, Belgium declined to renew the visa for Song Xining who was the head of the Confucius Institute in Brussels, according to a report by Reuters. Song was accused of spying for Chinese intelligence agencies and banned from entering Belgium and, effectively, 25 other European Schengen countries.

Growing Clout Worldwide

By its own account, Hanban currently operates 187 Confucius Institutes in Europe and 81 in the U.S. Within Europe, Britain has the most Confucius Institutes at 30, with 19 in Germany, 18 in France, 12 in Italy, and 8 in Spain. Belgium, with a population of 10 million, has 6 Confucius Institutes. Countries with closer ties to China usually have more Confucius Institutes and classrooms, and thus receive more funding.

In the United States, the Chinese government has provided more than $158 million to over 100 Confucius Institutes since 2006, according to a Senate subcommittee report “China's Impact on the U.S. Education System” on February 22, 2019. “As China opened over 100 additional Confucius Institutes in the United States over the last 15 years, the Department of Education remained silent,” the report states.

Confucius Institutes have been the major channel through which China has infiltrated and spread its communist ideology to the rest of the world over the past two decades. Lured by the world’s second-largest economy and 1.4 billion potential consumers, many Western countries willingly turned a blind eye to this influence. Multi-national companies continue to set up offices and invest in China. Driven by profit, financial groups on Wall Street have been encouraging American companies to invest in China. They’ve also lobbied policymakers for decisions that favor China.

In recent years, China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has attracted much attention because of promised Chinese Foreign Direct Investments and trillions of dollars in trade. Italy was the first European country to sign an agreement with China for the BRI. Belgium, with half of Beijing's population, became a close partner with China in the BRI. According to the Belgian Foreign Trade Agency (BFTA), Belgium had a trading volume of $26.6 billion with China in 2019 alone.

During a press conference after a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Paris on March 26, 2019, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “We, as Europeans, want to play an active part [in BRI].” French President Emmanuel Macron once described himself as a “Maoist” in an interview with a French local media outlet. Both Germany and France have allowed Huawei equipment to be used in their 5G infrastructures, despite concern over security and Huawei's connection with the Chinese military.

Similarly, most Western countries choose to downplay China's human rights record. Spain was the first EU nation to have a foreign minister visit Beijing after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. When a judge on the bench of Spain’s National Court issued a rogatory letter asking Chinese authorities to indict former Chinese Communist head Jiang Zemin for the persecution of Falun Gong in 2009, the letter was later withdrawn under pressure from the Chinese government.

Getting Wise to Communist China's Threats

As China’s relationship with the rest of the world worsens due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many Western governments are realizing the danger communist China poses to the world. Confucius Institutes and classrooms are being closed around the world. New South Wales, Australia, closed all its Confucius classrooms in 2019. Twenty-six Confucius Institutes have closed in the U.S. so far. The U.S. Senate's report mentioned earlier is calling for stringent controls to be placed on the hosting schools.

In the book How the Specter of Communism Is Ruling Our World by The Epoch Times, the authors point out, 

“Many governments, large companies, and businessmen may, for a period of time, ostensibly obtain benefits from the CCP for the sacrifice of their moral principles. But in the end, they’ll lose more than they gain. Such ill-gained, superficial benefits are all poisonous. Only by not coveting immediate interests will one have a bright future.

“The CCP is not a political party or regime in the normal sense. It does not represent the Chinese people. It represents the communist specter. To associate with the CCP is to associate with the devil. To be friendly with the CCP is to appease the devil, aid it, and play a role in pushing humanity toward destruction. Conversely, to push back against the CCP is to engage in the battle between good and evil. This is not a simple matter of countries fighting over national interests. It is a battle for the future of humanity.”

How will the world stand against the communist specter?