Date of Award

Fall 12-19-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

MA Asian Studies


Language/Literature /Culture


Dongdong Chen, Ph.D

Committee Member

Edwin Pak-wah Leung, Ph.D

Committee Member

Gary Andrasko, M.A.

Committee Member

Frederick J. Booth, Ph.D


China's rise, Confucius Institutes, soft power


The Confucius Institutes are Chinese government-backed nonprofit organizations that promote Chinese language and culture. They are housed on collegiate campuses and designed to complement Chinese language and cultural studies by providing teachers, curriculums, textbooks and other educational materials. Their establishment has been a source of controversy, especially in the United States, due to the institutes’ close ties with and the financial, administrative, and political support they receive from the Chinese government. Critics have had two primary concerns: that the Confucius Institutes provide the Chinese government access to increase soft power by issuing propaganda and that their presence on American collegiate campuses interferes with academic independence.

How are the Confucius Institutes being received in the United States? Are they effective in enhancing Chinese soft power? Does Hanban funding unduly influence American college administrators and educators and/or restrict academic independence?

This thesis will illustrate that the debates surrounding the Confucius Institutes on American collegiate campuses are driven more by international systemic changes and increasing competition between China and the United States than concerns of preserving academic integrity. Furthermore, it will show that the influence of Hanban and the Confucius Institutes does not significantly threaten academic integrity at those institutions. This thesis will contribute to existing academia by providing a comprehensive overview of the Confucius Institutes and how they operate, surveying the theories that affect various viewpoints in the debates over the Confucius Institutes and analyzing how coverage on the Confucius Institutes is framed in academic literature and mass media.