The United Kingdom is now looking to hire Taiwanese teachers as part of proposed plans to phase out its Beijing-backed Chinese language schools known as Confucius Institutes.
A group of cross-party Members of Parliament (MPs), including Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, is currently in talks to hire new teachers from Taiwan and replace Confucius Institutes in the U.K., according to The Observer.
Confucius Institutes are Chinese language, culture and business etiquette schools. Over 30 schools are currently in operation and are hosted by a university in the U.K. in partnership with Beijing-based organization Chinese International Education Foundation (CIEF) and a partner university in China.
According to China Research Group, a group founded by Conservative MPs Tom Tugendhat and Neil O’Brien, the U.K. government allocated an estimated £7 million (approximately $7.96 million) budget to the schools from 2015 to 2024.
Given the recent talks, the group of cross-party MPs is looking to redirect this funding to other schools. The recent decision came after Kearns asked Taiwan to play a more significant role in teaching Mandarin in the U.K. as distrust over the Chinese Communist Party continues to grow.
Kearns, a member of the British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, proposed a Higher Education Bill amendment in June. The amendment would allow British officials to close down Confucius Institutes over concerns about academic freedom.
Kearns told Channel News Asia that Confucius Institutes are under the CCP’s control and that they “do not teach accurate history,” a practice that “needs to end.”
Andrew Methven, who runs Slow Chinese, a Mandarin-learning newsletter, argued that outsourcing language teaching “is not a solution. There needs to be a much deeper change in how we understand China in our education system.”
Taiwan has purportedly been setting up Mandarin learning centers in the United States to compete with Confucius Institutes. However, several schools were reportedly closed across the U.S. over the years — resulting in just 27 out of over 100 operational institutes — after Congress and intelligence officials raised concerns related to Chinese influence operations.
The recent news comes amid the diminishing bilateral relationship between the U.K. and China. Prime Minister Liz Truss, who once praised Confucius Institutes while she was the U.K.’s education minister in 2014, is reportedly ready to declare China an “acute threat.”
Despite dwindling relations, Chinese observers of China-U.K. relations consider it a good sign that Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan was invited to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.