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UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Editorial

As China’s sway in the world economy grows, questions have come to light about its labor practices and the human rights abuses of its regime. The Chinese Ministry of Culture has just granted the University of Massachusetts, Boston one million dollars toward the founding of the “Confucius Institute”, which according to the Boston Globe will “offer language courses, train teachers of Mandarin, and develop curriculum and cultural events”.

The Mass Media has covered the human rights abuses before, (Big Trouble in Big China 10/16/06) and with the recent, long-in-coming admission of these abuses by the Chinese government it is incumbent upon us as members of the free world and as trading partners to inquire into these abuses.

Certainly free money from any corner is always welcome, but is it really “free”? Without, we hope, sounding xenophobic or conspiracist- it is the government of China we have issues with, after all, and not its people- is a million dollars taken from the government responsible for the Tiananmen Square massacre not green, perhaps, but red?

It’s a question that should be asked. We’re not calling upon the administration to answer for any dealings with the Chinese government, or even saying that the Institute is a bad idea. China is a rising economic power, after all, and if we’re going to be dealing with them, it is best we understand them. But will the Confucius Institute truly be a tool of tutelage, or a propaganda weapon? It may not be proper to do so, but we should ask: What about Tibet? What about the imprisoned intellectuals? What about Falun Gong?

We in our little corner of American academia can’t single-handedly cause any nation to abandon questionable policies, but we can listen, learn, and use our knowledge to great effect, and that starts at home.

Granted, America’s own human rights record has come into question in the last few years. But these recent developments should not dissuade us as citizens from asking the big questions when we have an opportunity, and one thing the Confucius Institute is giving us is a hotline directly to the Communist Party of China.

Isolationism, of course, is unrealistic. In our increasingly global economic landscape, America needs to build bridges, and not a fortress. China is just now making its way into the world community. Giving them the cold shoulder is not going to make them stop imprisoning dissenters. We should take their money, but this money is one gift horse that should be thoroughly inspected. We have here a chance to ask the questions that their political prisoners are imprisoned for asking, and we should not waste it.