Taiwan’s Minister of the Overseas Community Affairs Council (OCAC), Tung Chen-yuan (童振源), opened the new Taiwan Center for Mandarin Learning in Irvine, California, to provide Chinese language courses for American adults.
The center aims to provide a language learning environment that values “freedom and democracy while respecting cultural diversity,” Tung said at the inaugural ceremony of the institute. “This is something that Confucius Institutes can simply not compete with,” he added.
Recently, Confucius Institutes worldwide have been heavily criticized for promoting China’s agenda through soft power and pushing Chinese government-backed political positions.
The establishment of the Taiwan center is part of the collaboration between the U.S. government and its Taiwanese counterpart on academic exchanges and education of the Chinese language, Tung said.
The OCAC has approved the sponsorship of the establishment of 18 branches of the Taiwan Center for Mandarin Learning in the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany, with 15 of them to be set up at Chinese language schools in the U.S. operated by overseas Taiwanese communities, according to the council.
The funding was established in accordance with the U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative, a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S. in 2020.
The OCAC will finance the operation of the institutes, textbooks, and equipment, as well as other language-related events, the council says on its website.
Tung noted that textbooks provided for the center’s courses will be in traditional Chinese, but in practice teachers are free to provide materials in simplified Chinese to help with their teaching.
“Chinese is one of the eight languages critical to national security here in the U.S.,” Irvine Vice Mayor Tammy Kim, who attended the ceremony, told Focus Taiwan.
“The Taiwan center is coming at the most critical time for us regarding our national security because the Confucius Institute is no longer allowed to work on any language projects,” Kim said.
Meanwhile, the OCAC said Tung would be visiting other American cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York, in the following days to inaugurate other branches of the Taiwan center, as part of his three-week trip to the U.S. that began at the end of August.