Stockholm University terminating its Confucius Institute

Magnus Fiskesjö's picture

Further on the Confucius Institutes saga:

Stockholm University in Stockholm, Sweden, has scrapped its Confucius Institute, in place since 2005. It was one of the first installed anywhere, and the first in Europe.

The university's chancellor Söderbergh Widding told the Swedish press that the reason was that other China links now fulfilled the need -- suggesting that the CI had become obsolete. Moreover, she concluded (in a turnaround of opinion) that "Generally it is questionable to have, within the framework of the university, institutes that are financed by another country."

Several big Swedish papers have reported on this, including the Svenska Dagbladet, http://www.svd.se/kultur/konfuciusinstitutet-laggs-ned_4218867.svd
. . . and, the Dagens Nyheter, http://www.dn.se/arkiv/nyheter/kontroversiellt-institut-laggs-ned-1
. . . a piece which the university also itself referred to in its own press release of December 20, 2014, announcing the termination: http://www.su.se/om-oss/press-media-nyheter/nyheter/beslut-taget-om-avveckling-av-institut...

The move to close the institute was preceded by intermittent criticism of the university in the Swedish media, for example in an op-ed article by veteran China journalist Ingvar Oja in the Svenska Dagbladet of 9 december 2014 (http://www.svd.se/kultur/kulturdebatt/konfucius-falska-leende_4173853.svd, entitled "Confucius' false smile"), which summarized the recent affairs involving CIs -- such as the Braga incident last summer when CI officers from China tried to censor the European Assn f Chinese Studies conference program, which they had helped finance. Stockholm University may also have been influenced by the fact that in contrast, other major universities around the neighboring Nordic/Scandivanian countries (such as Oslo, Copenhagen, etc.) never agreed to host any CI. (Stockholm University opened its own CI under the name of "Nordic CI", though this was later changed to "Stockholm Confucius Institute").

In any case, the decision to terminate the CI is definitely a turnaround for the university, including for its chancellor Söderbergh Widding who as recently as 2013 wrote a blog post dedicated to counter the criticism of her university's hosting the CI (see: http://rektorsblogg.su.se/2013/08/14/konfuciusinstitutet/ -- where she dismisses critics of Confucius Institutes as victims of "liberal fundamentalism"). This was despite the fact that several years earlier, in 2008, her university -- under the previous chancellor -- already once said it had decided to remove the CI from its campus -- this after the publication of a specially commissioned independent report which concluded that hosting such a Chinese institute as a part of the university could give rise to suspicion of undue influence (see: http://www.information.dk/167264, "Swedish university to close Chinese institute"). But the termination was not executed -- until now.

Magnus Fiskesjö, nf42@cornell.edu
(former student of Stockholm University)