Why is this called a Confucius Institute?
Confucius Institutes take their name from the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, who lived more than 2,500 years ago. Confucius and his teachings focused on promoting social harmony, justice, honesty, and morality. Confucius Institutes are intended to educate the world about Chinese culture and language and to promote cultural exchanges. They embrace the Confucian principles of peace, harmony, honesty and justice.
What is a Confucius Institute?
The non-profit Confucius Institutes operate with support from the host university and from a partner university in China – in this case, Shanxi University. The Confucius Institutes also receive support from Hanban, also known as the Office of Chinese Language Council International (CLCI), a Chinese Ministry of Education subsidiary.
While each Confucius Institute’s offerings may vary, they sometimes offer Chinese language instruction; cultural activities including artistic performances, films and lectures; and study abroad exchange opportunities. Some offer training for Chinese language teachers and for businesses and establish Chinese Language Testing centers.
Some compare the Confucius Institutes to other government supported cultural outreach programs like the British Council, France’s Alliance Francaise, Germany’s Goethe-Institute, or the American English Institutes. China began establishment of the Confucius Institutes in 2004.
There are over 100 Confucius Institutes in the United States, including ones at North Carolina State University, the University of South Carolina, the University of Maryland, and Michigan State University. There are over 500 worldwide.
What is the purpose of this program?
At UNC Charlotte, the purpose is to support and enhance language instruction and cultural offerings. The UNC Charlotte leadership has set a mission and goals in support of this purpose.
Mission and Goals
The mission of the UNC Charlotte Confucius Institute is to:
- Further the development and understanding of Chinese language and culture on UNC Charlotte campus
- Further the development and understanding of Chinese language and culture in the bigger Charlotte area
- Further collaboration between the U.S. and China, and especially between UNC Charlotte and Shanxi University in research, learning, student and staff exchange
The UNC Charlotte Confucius Institute has these following goals:
Focus on Learning and Teaching
- Strengthen and enhance UNC Charlotte’s Chinese curriculum
- Support K-12 schools in the Charlotte area with their current Chinese curricula
- Connect UNC Charlotte students with Chinese scholarships for short term or long term study abroad programs in China
- Offer students from Shanxi University the opportunity to study at UNC Charlotte through selected collaborative agreements
- Develop and strengthen links with Charlotte business community by offering training and support in Chinese learning and develop collaborative ventures
- Develop language courses open to the public based on needs
- Establish an HSK (Chinese Language Test) center, when appropriate, as a central testing location for the Charlotte area and to complement existing centers in the Carolinas: NC State University and University of South Carolina at Columbia
- Develop teacher training courses to develop the skills of primary and secondary school Chinese teachers in the Charlotte area
Focus on Intercultural Awareness
- Promote Chinese language and culture through collaborations with local K-12 schools
- Offer courses open to public on subjects such as Taiji, Chinese calligraphy, and etc.
- Pair Chinese speakers and Chinese learners for language and cultural exchange
- Provide conversation hours to build fellowship in Chinese culture
- Promote Chinese culture and philosophy through films and other cultural artifacts
- Organize seminars and lectures on Chinese issues, such as economy, culture and politics
- Establish connection with the local media, Chinese embassy and other stakeholders
What will the early days of the UNC Charlotte Confucius Institute look like?
The Confucius Institute at UNC Charlotte started its efforts with a planning period that is focused on establishing the infrastructure. That has included bringing on two directors – one from UNC Charlotte (Dr. Yongling Gorke) and one from Shanxi University (Dr. Mofang Ji) – who will manage the Confucius Institute and report to a Board of Directors chaired by UNC Charlotte College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean Nancy A. Gutierrez.
The Confucius Institute is housed in an academic department, the Department of Languages and Culture Studies in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. The chair of that department supervises the Confucius Institute.
The Confucius Institute will initially focus on working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and other schools in the region to help students be better equipped to succeed in an increasingly globalized world. Any language instruction in those schools will occur under the direct supervision of the local schools, with any instructors serving as teaching assistants to teachers in the schools.
When in the UNC Charlotte classrooms, Chinese instructors from Shanxi University will act as teaching assistants under the direction of UNC Charlotte faculty in those faculty members’ classrooms. Their role, for example, will be to participate in such activities as serving as conversation partners as students practice their language skills.
The focus also will include providing cultural and artistic offerings to the community. Other Confucius Institutes have provided lectures on subjects such as language, calligraphy, qigong, tai chi, Chinese sports, Chinese for business, Chinese arts and crafts, Chinese opera and Chinese movies. The UNC Charlotte Confucius Institute is currently developing community programming.
Long-term goals include potentially connecting UNC Charlotte students with Chinese scholarships for short-term or long-term study abroad programs in China, and offering students from Shanxi University the opportunity to study at UNC Charlotte through selected collaborative agreements.
Why are Charlotte and UNC Charlotte a fit for a Confucius Institute?
Charlotte and China’s economic ties go back several decades. These ties developed first in textile and fiber industries from the late 1970s to 2000s. In the 2000s, Celanese Corporation, with its major fiber operations in the Carolinas and its operational headquarters in Charlotte, was a major trade and joint venture partner with China’s state-owned China National Tobacco Corporation. In 2009, Duke Energy signed memorandum with China Huangneng Group to pursue renewable and clean-energy projects. In 2012, they entered new agreements to expand research cooperation in the areas of advanced coal and carbon capture and sequestration technologies, utilizing Chinese technologies in Duke’s projects.
The Charlotte Business Journal (2014) cited China as a key source of investment in Charlotte. The number of Chinese firms in the Charlotte area increased sharply from 7 in 2012 to 41 in 2016. The demand for Chinese language teaching and cultural activity in local K-12 schools and colleges has also risen as a result. A number of non-profit Chinese/Asian business associations have been serving the Charlotte region to foster business growth and economic development.
The Confucius Institute at UNC Charlotte will connect and engage the community in a greater understanding of China, the Chinese people and culture, and the Chinese language. Living in a global world particularly requires that students – who are future leaders – gain competency in navigating this increasingly complex, interdependent world.
Why does the Charlotte region need a Confucius Institute?
Throughout the United States and around the world, Confucius Institutes act as a bridge between people who want to connect with their counterparts in China. They operate not strictly as an academic entity, but in a broader community and cultural capacity.
The Chinese population in the Charlotte region has shown significant growth, with a 168 percent rise in population between 2000 and 2014. Local schools have responded with Chinese language classes. In North Carolina, K-12 public schools offer 17 languages. In order of enrollment, Chinese (Mandarin) was third in enrollment, behind Spanish and French.
Meanwhile, the Carolinas Chinese Chamber of Commerce in 2015 led a 40-representative delegation from the Carolinas for a 2-week business trip to China to explore potential collaborations. Another trip occurred in 2017.
What will a Confucius Institute mean academically for UNC Charlotte?
Each Confucius Institute is paired with an academic or cultural organization in China. UNC Charlotte’s partner institution is Shanxi University, a comprehensive university of the arts and sciences.
This partnership will establish a mechanism to explore development of an exchange of students and faculty between the U.S. and China to study at both campuses. The UNC Charlotte Confucius Institute could also enhance existing university relationships between other Chinese research institutions and other educational institutions.
What will a Confucius Institute mean for business in Charlotte and the region?
We can take a note from other Confucius Institutes, which provide businesses and community members with courses to meet their needs across topics such as Chinese business etiquette, customs and practices and basic Chinese for Business language classes. We will be exploring with business partners the specific needs in the Charlotte region.
What will this mean culturally?
The UNC Charlotte Confucius Institute is expected to bring a diverse range of cultural activities to promote an understanding and appreciation of Chinese arts and culture. Other Confucius Institutes feature Chinese cinema, music, calligraphy, dance, literature and other topics through guest lectures, concerts, festivals, demonstrations and other presentations.
Does the Confucius Institute have a Board, and if so, who are the Board members?
The Board of Directors is chaired by Nancy A. Gutierrez, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at UNC Charlotte. Board members include from UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois, Provost Joan Lorden, and Assistant Provost for International Programs Joel Gallegos; from Shanxi University President Suotang Jia, General Party Secretary Shuai Shi, Foreign Affairs Director Guodong Yu, and Vice President Jun Yang; and from the community Carolinas Asian-American Chamber of Commerce Chairman John Chen, Wells Fargo Vice President Ed Yu and YHO Consulting CEO Ynez Olshausen.
A Faculty advisory group also provides guidance. This group comprises UNC Charlotte faculty with relevant expertise. The Confucius Institute is housed in one of our academic departments, the Department of Languages and Culture Studies in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. The chair of that department supervises the Confucius Institute.
What is the role of the Board?
The Board is established to govern the Confucius Institute. The Board of Directors is responsible for assessing and approving the Confucius Institute’s development plans, annual plans, annual reports, project implementation schemes, budget proposals, and final financial accounts. The Board is responsible for appointing and dismissing Directors of the Confucius Institute.
Where is the UNC Charlotte Confucius Institute physically located?
The Confucius Institute is located in the Department of Languages and Culture Studies on the top floor of the Cato College of Education Building on the main UNC Charlotte campus.