“Before the King Sejong Institute in Bahrain, the Embassy
of the Republic of Korea used to teach Korean to people.
However, more and more people wanted to learn so from
September 2016, Manama King Sejong Institute started to
offer Korean language and culture courses,” Chaerin Park,
operational coordinator and Korean teacher at the institute,
tells The PIE.
The annual Soft Power 30 report by Portland Communi-cations
includes education as one of its indicators for global
soft power. Isolated for education alone, it ranks the US as
the most powerful country, followed by Germany, the UK,
the Netherlands and France.
“The European Union allocates considerable resources
for its external communications and diplomacy with non-EU
states as a strategic element of its foreign policy,” the 2018
“The fact that the English language is the most popular
lingua franca in today’s world provides a significant advan-tage
to British public diplomacy, and allows for cultural dip-lomacy
and social empathy through language instruction.”
The report also notes that familiarity plays a key role in
the success of cultural outreach. It is something that new
players are finding difficult to overcome.
“Even as global interest in China grows, its value system
and cultural traditions have yet to be understood by the
international community. Likewise, China’s creative and
cultural outputs have not yet captured the attention and
imagination of wider global audiences,” the report notes.
Criticisms about the roles of such institutes, whether it’s
the British Council, L’Alliance Français or someone else, are
not unheard of, with some private providers disliking their
large market shares in certain areas or believing they should
be a facilitator for private business rather than a competitor.
However, in some areas the work of such organisations,
in conjunction with embassies, have made them popular
ISSUE #24 | THE PIE REVIEW | 85
vernment, the fact that they actively work with the embas-sies
This collusion was apparent in February this year when
Rukiye Turdush, a prominent Uyghur rights activist and
Canadian citizen, gave a speech at McMaster University.
“During the lecture, at least one Chinese student in the
audience disrupted Turdush and shouted vulgarities, while
another student filmed. Following the event, some… al-legedly
sent photos of the event to the Chinese Consulate in
Toronto, while several student groups at McMaster, inclu-ding
a CSSA chapter, co-published a report on the event,”
describes Scholars at Risk: Obstacles to Excellence, a report
on China and higher education published in September.
This trend has been seen in several countries, including
in the UK, with complaints over a globe that gave Taiwan a
different colour to China, and in Hungary, where authorities
pressured a university to prevent a Taiwan booth at a food
fair. Chinese embassies have also been accused of pressur-ing
academics that teach course content they find unpalata-ble.
This has led to a rise in self-censorship among acade-mics
that don’t want their Chinese visa applications rejected.
Many governments serious about exercising soft power no
longer rely on embassies alone, forming dedicated organisa-tions
for their own self-promotion.
This includes entities such as the British Council and
Germany’s Goethe Institut, as well as newer incarnations
like South Korea’s King Sejong Institute or China’s Confu-cius
Institute. Depending on the country, these are either
controlled through the Ministry of Education, the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs or function as a non-government orga-nisation.
Together with embassies, they have adopted an
important role in cultural diplomacy.
for its external
Activist Rukiye Turdush has been subjected to harrassment
supported by the Chinese Embassy