Stockholm Plans to Close Last Confucius Institute in Sweden Over Diverging Political Values and Security Concerns
On April 21, Swedish media reported that government authorities plan to shut down Sweden’s last Confucius Institute classroom at Falksberg high school, which is run by China’s state-run educational organization, the Confucius Institute – an entity largely perceived as a conduit for the export of Chinese soft power influence around the world. The move was preceded by the closure of all Confucius Institutes based out of Swedish universities. With this most recent closure, Sweden has become the first country to fully cut ties with the organization.
Per reports, Stockholm’s decision was catalyzed by Beijing’s recent arrest of Swedish publisher Gui Minhai – a vocal critic of Chinese President, Xi Jinping. The closures were also largely driven by diverging views between Beijing and Stockholm on censorship, and control of the Institutes.
The European Union has expressed concern about cooperation between its educational institutions and China as problematic, not only due to diverging values, but also due to the risk of scientific espionage. This led the European Commission to warn state members and Universities to be aware of the threat and review existing cooperative programs.
The Confucius Institute operates 548 branches and 1,193 classrooms around the world (as of 2018), primarily operating culture and language programs on university and school campuses. The organization is directly controlled by China’s Ministry of Education. Despite its stated educational purposes, concerns have been persisted in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere around the world about the organization’s use by Beijing as a vehicle to project influence and pursue other state-directed objectives abroad.