Nov 052007

Tennessee is getting its first Confucius Institute earlier than I expected:

The U of M’s Institute is the 24th in the U.S. and one of more than 100 worldwide. The U of M’s institute will partner with Hubei University in China. The two institutions will engage in information and cultural exchange for professors and students….

Even more surprising is that the school chosen is the University of Memphis. Apparently I was not the only one:

Chinese officials wanted to know why an institute should be housed at the U of M, and not at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, among other potential sites.

Kung and the others came back to Memphis to begin answering that question and to begin working on their proposal, which they wrote in both English and Chinese. They spent a month on the 68-page document and submitted it Dec. 1….

It is the only one in Tennessee and the Mid-South – an honor for Kung and his colleagues….

The Confucius Institutes have been controversial because of their ties to the Chinese government. The U of M’s director definitely isn’t hiding these connections:

Kung has five objectives to make the Confucius Institute a success. He said he plans to work closely with, in order: the Chinese Embassy; the Chinese government – namely the ministry of education; Hubei University; the U of M; and communities in both China and the U.S.

The best explanation for why Memphis won the bid comes at the end of the article:

One offshoot of the institute has been the exchange of American and Chinese basketball coaches. That sport has boomed in China, and when the U of M basketball team travels to China next year, Kung said he believes it will only enhance the city’s stature there.

Most of my Chinese friends don’t know much about Tennessee, but those who are into sports probably know about the Grizzlies.

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