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Ambassador Zhang Ming: if even Confucius is seen as a threat, then I could not think of anything else that could not be a threat

On 19 December 2019, Ambassador Zhang Ming, Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, gave an exclusive interview to the Financial Times. He talked about some European universities’ decision to suspend cooperation on the Confucius Institute.

Ambassador Zhang said, “The Confucius Institute is a non-profit organization jointly established on a voluntary basis between Chinese and foreign universities. Its main purpose is to teach Chinese and Chinese civilization. The cultural and educational activities are totally open and transparent. It is similar to the French Alliance, the Goethe Institute of Germany and the Instituto Cervantes.”

Ambassador Zhang said, “Like Socrates, Confucius was a great philosopher, thinker and educator. The two great persons almost lived in the same period. Confucius put forward a lot of useful ideas, like peace under heaven, harmony among nations, and benevolence. These philosophies are highly relevant still today for us to approach interpersonal relations and state-to-state relations.”

Ambassador Zhang noted that under the pressure of a certain country, some EU member states are suspending their cooperation on the Confucius Institute. There is a tendency here in Europe. In the 21st century, if even Confucius is seen as a threat, then I could not think of anything else that could not be a threat.

Ambassador Zhang said, “For some time, some American and western politicians and media are quite suspicious of the Confucius Institute. They are making attacks on these Institutes, but they have yet to come up with solid evidence. Such moves are quite radical and discriminatory.”

Ambassador Zhang expressed the hope that the EU and its member states could be more confident, refrain from ideology-driven prejudice, and not politicize a normal cultural and educational program. China and Europe both enjoy time-honored history and civilization. If even Socrates and Confucius could not communicate with each other, there will be no future for cross-civilizational dialogues.

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