In recent years, Confucius Institutes—cultural and language programs funded by the Chinese government—have garnered attention in the United States due to a debate over whether they threaten free speech and academic freedom. In addition to this, much of the scholarly work on Confucius Institutes analyzes policy documents. Anthropologist Jennifer Hubbert
seeks to ask more complex questions and in-depth research in her new book China in the World: An Anthropology of Confucius Institutes, Soft Power, and Globalization
(University of Hawaii Press, 2019). She considers what China’s soft power efforts look like in implementation, in addition to policy, and what this can tell us about China’s changing place in the world. Over the course of five years (2011-2016), Hubbert conducted transnational, multiscalar, multisited ethnographic and archival research in Confucius Institutes in the United States and on Confucius Institute-sponsored travel-study trips to China. She observed and interviewed students, parents, teachers, and administrators about their perceptions of Confucius Institutes and the Chinese state. Ultimately, she concludes that the soft power of the Confucius Institutes is intended to present China as a modern, globalized country not only for Americans and other international audiences but also to a domestic audience in China.
Laurie Dickmeyer is an Assistant Professor of History at Angelo State University, where she teaches courses in Asian and US history. Her research concerns nineteenth century US-China relations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter (@LDickmeyer).