In an earlier post, I wrote about the expansion of Chinese language programs in the US and around the world. It’s actually growing faster than I thought. A special project called Confucius Institute, administered by the National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (NOTCFL) has already spread to 49 countries with over 120 institutes. The exponential economic growth of China in recent years initiated huge interest in the Chinese language. While many people think learning Chinese as a bridge to career and business opportunities, some are worried about the motives behind the Confucius Institute and others branded it the export of “soft power.” The NOTCFL predicts there will be 500 Confucius Institutes by the end of 2010. Such ambition is hard to justify.

When the US finalized the approval of China’s permanent Normal Trade Relations status (also known as Most Favored Nation) in late 2001, it gave up its habit of raising concerns for China’s human rights conditions during the annual renewal of NTR status (those were key moments that kept the Chinese government on alert). Since then, many US companies entered the Chinese market and some agreed to follow certain rules that clearly violate human rights. As of now, those companies have to defend themselves in front of the American public with many lame excuses. But when the Confucius Institute successfully captures the hearts and minds of people around the world, will we take a blind eye on whatever China does to their own citizens?

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Update (2-28-2007):