Category Archives: Confucius Peace Prize

“Confucius Institutes are not about Confucius”

If anyone is qualified to make that argument, it’s The Useless Tree. Following news that a number of CI scholars will need to leave the US to reapply for correct visas, The Useless Tree looks at exactly what the CI is, and why the Global Times editorials on the subject are nonsense:

They are not about Confucius. Rather, the PRC government has chosen to use the name of Confucius as a trademark of sorts for a global soft power branding project. The Institutes, most of which in the US are hosted by colleges or universities, focus on language learning, with a variety of other cultural activities: Lunar New Year parties: calligraphy; a little Peking Opera; etc. As far as I can tell – and I have been in conversation with many US academics who have CIs on their campuses (my college does not have one) – there is no systematic effort to engage with Confucian thought in any serious manner.

Indeed, I find no direct reference to Confucius the man and thinker on their English language web page; though there is a little video on Hai Rui, an upright bureaucrat from the Ming Dynasty (no mention is made of the fact that his story was central to the initiation of the Cultural Revolution in 1966). The Confucian-killer Qin Shihuangdi seems to get more attention there than Confucius himself. Bottom line: CIs are not the place to go if you want to learn about Confucianism.

And there are ironies here. The Chinese Communist Party, born of the anti-Confucian radicalism of the May 4th period and vehemently anti-Confucian up through the 1970s, is now reaching for The Master as a happy, avuncular image to adorn a most un-Confucian authoritarian-capitalist modernity.

In any event, to get back to the recent controversy…

About a week ago the US government issued a policy directive indicating that the visas for some Chinese nationals working at Confucius Institutes in the US might be invalid. The directive is specific and narrowly drawn: the issue involves Chinese nationals whose visa is sponsored by a college and university who then go on to teach in elementary or high schools. It is not an assault on CIs generally. Rather, it is an action to implement existing visa limitations that attached to foreign nationals at college and universities.

There is, however, a long-standing critique of CIs in the US, but is not so much a matter of cultural anxiety as it is a political question. CIs are CCP-sponsored institutions and their mission is to support the soft power of the PRC. The money that flows from the PRC to finance CIs has certain strings attached to it. You will not find an open debate about current political issues in Tibet or Xinjiang being sponsored by CIs. We all know that. The worry is that the political agenda expands further to limit academic freedom. US colleges and universities are very defensive about academic freedom. We don’t like political limitations on academic inquiry. And CIs naturally raise those questions. We should ask those questions and work to ensure that CIs do not violate academic freedom.

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On Vladimir Putin and the Confucius Peace Prize

For all the goofy winners the Nobel Peace Prize has picked, it’s hard to beat Putin as a ‘peace prize’ winner. Tons of reactions to this coming from all over the place today- first, the opening of the NYT article gives a pretty good overview of the absurdity of this prize:

The Chinese committee that awarded this year’s Confucius Peace Prize minced no words in honoring the winner, Vladimir V. Putin, prime minister of Russia.

It praised his decision to go to war in Chechnya in 1999.

Ahahaha, I mean, come on… Have some subtlety, will you? When they elaborated, it came out sounding even worse:

Mr. Putin, who had engaged in wars in Chechnya and Georgia, had won the prize, which has been steeped in political intrigue in recent months.

“Those wars were righteous wars,” Qiao Damo, the self-described co-founder and president of the Confucius Peace Prize committee, said in a telephone interview. “Mr. Putin fought for the unification of his country.”

In fact, the campaign in Chechnya led to a stream of human rights abuses by Russian and pro-Russian Chechen security forces, including rape, torture and murder, numerous human rights organizations found at the time.

Okay, so he’s a model peaceful leader, other than all the wars… which were totally righteous, which is why he’s earned the title ‘the butcher of Chechnya,’ right? Anyway, Shanghaiist gets into who exactly is behind the award:

You may remember that the Ministry of Culture disbanded the original organisers of the award and anointed a group of professors from Tsinghua University, Peking University and Beijing Normal University to put together the “new“ award. It appears now that the awarding of the prize to Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin is the handiwork of the old guard and has absolutely nothing to do with the new group blessed by the ministry!

After they were ordered to be shut down, members of the China Native Art Association’s Traditional Culture Protection Bureau took a flight down to Hong Kong and set up a new organisation called China International Peace Research Centre.

The head of this new so-called “research centre” is a poet by the name of Qiao Damo who apparently was shameless enough to nominate himself for last year’s inaugural awards. Qiao now says that their award ceremony is set to take place Dec. 9 at Beijing’s Dongdan News Building — whatever the ministry might say.

Truly a distinguished body. WSJ reports that news portals in China are actually trying to play down this story- I’d speculate that they’re afraid of people then searching more about peace prizes in general and maybe stumbling onto more news about who won last year:

The operators of two of China’s biggest news portals appear to have had second thoughts about trumpeting Mr. Putin’s latest accomplishment: winning the Confucius Peace Prize, China’s homegrown alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize.

Both the Sina and NetEase news portals – two of the most popular news-aggregating websites in China – initially published the news, picking up a report from the website of the state-run Hubei Daily newspaper. By Tuesday morning, however, both sides had taken the article down.

Searches of the Sina and NetEase news sites turned up no mention of Mr. Putin’s victory Tuesday afternoon, though a version of the story was still available on Sina’s Hong Kong news page.

Sina is not overtly censoring discussion of Mr. Putin’s conquest on its popular microblogging service, Weibo, where the response from users appeared mostly to bounce back and forth from befuddled to bemused.

“Wasn’t this prize aborted?” asked Weibo user Guojia Baoan, while another user, Qingqing Di’er, chastised the organizers for bringing shame on Mr. Putin. “Amusing yourself is one thing, but dragging Putin in to lose face along with you is something else.”

“Why are you interfering in Russia’s internal affairs?” user Gongmin Mamou asked in a joking reference to China’s long-standing official foreign policy of noninterference.

Whether Mr. Putin will have the time or inclination to travel to Beijing to pick up the award remains to be seen. The winner of the inaugural Confucius Peace Prize, Mr. Lien, failed to show at the ceremony despite the 100,000-yuan ($15,700) cash honorarium offered along with the prize.

Great job!

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“Vladimir Putin and Chinese Panchen Lama nominated for Confucius Peace Prize”

Ahahahahahaha. Hahahahahhahahahahhahahah, hahahahahaha…. hahaha. Angry about Liu Xiaobo, last year Beijing announced that it was going to make its own peace prize! From Shanghaiist, we learn about the nominees:

China’s Confucius Peace Prize, unveiled hastily last year after a bunch of cantankerous Scandinavians had the nerve to award the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese citizen, is back! Among the shining beacons of peace in the running for the highly-uncoveted prize this year is Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, known around the world for his dictatorial ways, forcible silencing of his critics, and for being the “Butcher of Chechnya”.

Two of the eight nominees are recycled from last year’s list: Gyaltsen Norbu, the 21-year-old boy hailed by the Chinese government as the 11th Panchen Lama (but not recognised anywhere else), is one of them.

Lien Chan (连战), honorary chairman of the Kuomintang, was the embarrassed winner of the inaugural prize last year. He did not attend the award ceremony, saying he had only heard of the prize through the press and had not received any official invitation to attend the ceremony.

I move that we start referring to this one as the Ironic Peace Prize.

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