As relations between China and the rest of the world continue to worsen due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Swedish government has decided to shut down all Confucius Institutes in the country to prevent Beijing from exerting its influence on university campuses.
According to The Times, Sweden is believed to be the first European nation to close all of its Confucius Institutes and classrooms, which were sponsored by Beijing in an effort to promote the Chinese language and enhance cultural exchanges between the two countries. The report pointed out that the bilateral friendship between China and Sweden has “deteriorated into hostility and mutual suspicion” and that the Swedish government has expressed concerns over Beijing’s potential brainwashing attempts on local students.
In December last year, Sweden shut down all four of its Confucius Institutes, leaving just one Confucius classroom in the southern Swedish town of Falkenberg. However, that classroom has also been suspended as of last week, which Bjorn Jerden, head of the Asia Program at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, described as solid proof of Sweden’s attitude change towards China.
Some experts have suggested that Sweden’s termination of the Chinese cultural education programs may also have to do with conflicts caused by Beijing’s detainment of Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai for selling critical books about Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping. They pointed out that the arrest has severely damaged trust between the two countries, according media.
Earlier this year, the University of Maryland in the U.S. also announced the cancellation of its Confucius Institute after allegations of Beijing’s political influence over academics surfaced. Many sensitive topics, including Taiwan’s independence and the Chinese Communist Party’s prosecutions of Tibetans, were said to have been skirted inside the classrooms, reported.