LONDON: A group of cross-party British lawmakers is in talks with Taiwan to provide Chinese-language teachers to the United Kingdon as the government seeks to phase out Confucius Institutes, according to media reports.
Chinese state-linked Confucius language learning and teaching project has been under heavy scrutiny as the bilateral relations between China and the UK continue to deteriorate.
Taipei Times reported that there are 30 branches of the institute operating across the UK.
Notably, the schools are effectively joint ventures between a host university in Britain, a partner university in China and the Chinese International Education Foundation, a Beijing-based organization.
Earlier in 2014, current British Prime Minister Liz Truss had praised the network of Confucius classrooms. Serving as education minister at the time, she said the institutes “will put in place a strong infrastructure for Mandarin” in the UK, as per Taipei Times.
However, now the last week’s reports suggested that she was prepared to declare China an “acute threat” to the UK’s national security, placing it in the same category as Russia.
Citing a study conducted by the China Research Group showed in June, Taipei Times reported that almost all British government spending on Chinese-language teaching at schools is channelled through university-based Confucius Institutes.
As per the estimates, the amounts to at least PS7 million (US$8.1 million) allocated from 2015 to 2024. Under the new proposal, the funding could be redirected to alternative programs such as those from Taiwan.
Taipei Times reported that last month revealed that only 14 British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office officials are being trained to speak fluent Chinese each year.
The lack of Chinese-language proficiency raised concerns for British diplomacy and also put language teaching under the spotlight. As per reports, such concerns are shared in the US, and Taiwan has stepped in.
The development on Confucius language came after British lawmaker Alicia Kearns last month called on Taiwan to play a bigger role in teaching Mandarin in the UK to enhance public understanding about Taiwan as Britons become increasingly distrustful of the Chinese Communist Party, as per the publication.