Propaganda and beyond: A note on the 2020 Confucius Institute reform

Confucius Institutes as CCP influence platforms

By restructuring the bureaucracy that runs its global network of language institutes, the CCP has consolidated it into its propaganda apparatus. The abandonment of the earlier model, in which the network was overseen by both propaganda and united front agencies, fits into the Xi era’s trend towards ‘unbundling’ organisational systems and clarifying channels of control radiating from the top party leadership. We sketch the 2020 transition, stressing the bureaucracy’s structural continuity: successive renamings did not alter its original leading small group-office setup, typical across the party-state. The language institute bureaucracy’s increasingly transparent position in the CCP propaganda system is, we argue, ultimately secondary to its more effective role in external influence operations: like other propaganda organs, the institutes can serve as platforms for the cultivation of foreign targets, making them tools supporting the work of intelligence and other non-propaganda agencies.

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