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Hanban (Chinese: 汉办) is the colloquial abbreviation for the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language.


It is governed by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Zhongguo Guojia Hanyu Guoji Tuiguang Lingdao Xiaozu Bangongshi, Chinese: 中国国家汉语国际推广领导小组办公室),[1] a non-government and non-profit organization affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China.[2][dead link][non-primary source needed] The current President of the Council is State Councilor Chen Zhili.[3]

According to the mission statement: "Hanban is committed to developing Chinese language and culture teaching resources and making its services available worldwide, meeting the demands of overseas Chinese learners to the utmost degree, and to contributing to global cultural diversity and harmony."[4] Generally, the Council is charged with cultivating knowledge and interest in the Chinese language and culture in nations around the world that are not native speakers of Chinese.

The following twelve state ministries and commissions are represented in the Chinese Language Council International:[1][2]

  • General Office of the State Council
  • Ministry of Education
  • Ministry of Finance
  • Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • State Development and Reform Commission
  • Ministry of Commerce
  • Ministry of Culture
  • State Administration of Radio Film and Television (China Radio International)
  • State Press and Publications Administration
  • State Council Information Office and the State Language Committee

Criticisms and controversies[edit]

Academics and journalists have criticized the Hanban, particularly the Confucius Institute program that has rapidly grown worldwide since 2004.

Confucius Institute[edit]

Main article: Confucius Institute

Hanban is most notable for the Confucius Institute program,[5] but it also sponsors the Chinese Bridge competition, which is a competition in Chinese proficiency for non-native speakers. On April 2007 while inspecting Hanban, Li Changchun, member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo in charge of ideology and propaganda stated that: "the construction of Confucius Institutes is an important channel to glorify Chinese culture, to help Chinese culture spread to the world...(which is) part of China's foreign propaganda strategy""[6]

The CIs are also criticized for their hiring practices. It was revealed that CI teachers are forbidden to have any in class discussion on or any involvement with topics sensitive to the Chinese regime, such as the Uyghurs, Tibet, Falun Gong, democracy advocates, etc. Canada's McMaster University terminated its contract with its CI after Sonia Zhao, former teacher at the University's CI, quit her job, and subsequently appealed to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario for the university's “giving legitimization to discrimination.” Under her job contract with the CI Ms. Zhao was forced to hide her belief in Falun Gong, a spiritual movement persecuted by the Communist party of China.[7]

Two North American associations of educators warned that Confucius Institutes were threatening academic freedoms. In December 2013, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) passed a resolution, "That all universities and colleges in Canada which currently host Confucius Institutes on their campuses cease doing so, and universities and colleges currently contemplating such arrangements pursue them no further." CAUT executive director James Turk described CIs as "essentially political arms of the Chinese government",[8] and said the 10 Canadian universities that host CIs are compromising their integrity by allowing the Hanban to have a voice in academic matters such as curriculum and topics of class discussion, which constitutes a "fundamental violation of academic freedom."[9] In June, 2014, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) called on the almost 100 American universities that host Confucius Institutes to renegotiate their contracts with the Hanban.[10] The AAUP's Report on Academic Freedom[11] stated, "Confucius Institutes function as an arm of the Chinese state and are allowed to ignore academic freedom."

A 21 June 2014 editorial in The Washington Post listed recent concerns about Confucius Institutes, including the AAUP advising universities to cut ties with them, alleged violations of freedom of speech and human rights, and the secrecy of undisclosed contracts between schools and the Hanban. It concluded that "academic freedom cannot have a price tag", and recommended that if universities will not publish their CI agreements, the programs should end.[12] The official Chinese news agency Xinhua "hit back with an angry editorial" on 24 June,[13] saying the claims by the AAUP and others that CIs "function as an arm of the Chinese state and are pushing political agendas", actually "expose not so much communist propaganda as their own intolerance of exotic cultures and biased preconceived notions to smear and isolate the CPC".[14]

EACS conference censorship[edit]

In July 2014, the evening before the start of the European Association of Chinese Studies (EACS) conference in Portugal, Xu Lin, Hanban vice-minister and director-general of Confucius Institute Headquarters, had removed from the conference program a single-page advertisement for Taiwan’s Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, a major sponsor of the conference for the past 20 years.[15][16][17][18][19][20] EACS protested and reprinted all the deleted materials to distribute to all conference members. Roger Greatrex, president of the EACS, subsequently issued a report on the deletion of pages from conference materials and a public letter of protest.[21]

The Confucius China Studies Program (CCSP), which is administered by the Confucius Institute, was another major sponsor of the conference, and Sun Lam, director of the University of Minho Confucius Institute was a co-organizer of the conference.[22] The CCSP international conference funding application states, "The conference is regulated by the laws and decrees of both China and the host country, and will not carry out any activities which are deemed to be adverse to the social order." Dr. Lam submitted a draft copy of the program to the CCSP, who subsequently approved the materials.

Conference registration began on 22 July 2014, and about 100 participants received complete copies of the abstracts and program, which comprised 89 pages plus cover and front matter, printed double-sided on 48 pages. However, after Xu Lin arrived that evening, she "issued a mandatory request that mention of the CCSP sponsorship be removed from the Conference Abstracts", and ordered her entourage from Confucius Institute Headquarters to remove all conference materials and take them to the apartment of a local Confucius Institute employee. When the remaining 300 participants arrived for conference registration on 23 July, they did not receive the printed abstracts or programs but only a brief summarized schedule. After last-minute negotiations between Xu Lin and conference organizers to ensure conference members received the program, a compromise was made to allow the removal of one abstract page that mentioned the CCSP support of the conference.

On the morning of 24 July, the remaining 300 conference participants received their materials, which were now missing four printed pages: the frontispiece mentioning CCSP sponsorship in the conference abstract, and three pages from the conference program. These expurgated pages contained information regarding Hanban's Confucius China Studies Program, recommendations of restaurants in Braga, the book exhibition and library donation organized by the Taiwan National Central Library, Dr. Sun Lam and Ambassador Joao de Deus Ramos, the keynote speaker, and the Taiwanese Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange.[23] Greatrex's official letter of protest concluded, "Such interference in the internal organization of the international conference of an independent and democratically organized non-profitable academic organization is totally unacceptable."[24]

Tseng Shu-hsien (曾淑賢), director-general of the National Central Library, stated that EACS officials and members had spoken out against Xu during the opening ceremony.[25][26]

Marshall Sahlins said the EACS censorship brings to light the Hanban's seriousness in enforcing its contractual provisions, and moreover, "they’re going to enforce them the way they do in China which is not so much by going to court ... but simply by fiat".[27][28]

The Christian Science Monitor reported that the censorship has made more academics in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia grow uneasy with Confucius Institutes. Furthermore, Ms. Xu met privately with foreign scholars in Shanghai, and when asked specifically about the missing pages "she denied ordering them censored."[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "About Hanban". The Office of Chinese Language Council International – North America Office. 
  2. ^ a b "The Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban)". University of Sydney. 19 August 2010. 
  3. ^ "About Hanban". Confucius Institute at Texas A&M University. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  4. ^ http://english.hanban.edu.cn/hbsm.php
  5. ^ Don Starr (2009). [Chinese Language Education in Europe: the Confucius Institutes "Chinese Language Education in Europe: the Confucius Institutes"]. European Journal of Education. Volume 44, Issue 1. pp. 65–82. 
  6. ^ Will Wachter. "The language of Chinese soft power in the US". [dead link]
  7. ^ McMaster closing Confucius Institute over hiring issues, The Globe and Mail, 7 February 2013.
  8. ^ Canada's Association of University Teachers Calls on Universities to Close Confucius Institutes, Universities News, 25 December 2013.
  9. ^ Universities and colleges urged to end ties with Confucius Institutes, Canadian Association of University Teachers, 17 December 2013.
  10. ^ Editorial board, The Price of Confucius Institutes, "Washington Post", 21 June 2014.
  11. ^ AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, On Partnerships with Foreign Governments: The Case of Confucius Institutes, June 2014.
  12. ^ The price of Confucius Institutes, The Washington Post, 21 June 2014.
  13. ^ Compulsory education: A setback for Confucius, Week in China, 4 July 2014.
  14. ^ China Voice: Fear, ignorance behind calls to stem Confucius Institutes, Xinhua, 23 June 2014.
  15. ^ Peter Cai, [1], Business Spectator, 6 August 2014. "China fails the soft-power test".
  16. ^ [2] "China hurts Taiwan's feelings at academic conference in Portugal", "Pakistan Defence" website, 4 August 2014
  17. ^ The Wall Street Journal", [3]" "Beijing's Propaganda Lessons: Confucius Institute officials are agents of Chinese censorship.", 7 August 2014.
  18. ^ The Diplomat [4], "The Diplomat", "The Undoing of China's Soft Power", 8 August 2014.
  19. ^ Shih Hsiu-chuan, EACS to protest Hanban’s academic meddling: source, Taipei Times, 31 July 2014.
  20. ^ China's obstruction at conference hurts cross-strait ties: Taiwan, Focus Taiwan News Channel, 28 July 2014.
  21. ^ Roger Greatrex, Report: The Deletion of Pages from EACS Conference materials in Braga (July 2014), European Association for Chinese Studies, 1 August 2014.
  22. ^ European Association for Chinese Studies conference 2014 website, [5], "The organisers", July 2014.
  23. ^ 20th Biennial Conference EACS Program, original version with the censored frontispiece and pages 15/16, 19/20, and 59/60.
  24. ^ Roger Greatrex, Letter of Protest at Interference in EACS Conference in Portugal, July 2014, European Association for Chinese Studies, 1 August 2014.
  25. ^ European Association for Chinese Studies Offers Formal Apologies to Us, National Policy Foundation, 29 July 2014.
  26. ^ Shih Hsiu-chuan, Foundation angry over EACS brochures, Taipei times, 29 July 2014.
  27. ^ Elizabeth Redden, Confucius Controversies, Inside Higher Ed, 24 July 2014.
  28. ^ Elizabeth Redden, Accounts of Confucius Institute-ordered censorship at Chinese studies conference, Inside Higher Ed, 6 August 2014.
  29. ^ Robert Marquand, Academic flap turns up heat on China's Confucius Institutes, The Christian Science Monitor, 22 August 2014.

External links[edit]