The Art of Winning Hearts and Minds: Explaining Divergent Outcomes of Confucius Institutes in the U.S.




Sweet, Diana L.

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After the first Confucius Institute opened in 2004, the Chinese government-funded program grew quickly. Today, there are over 500 in the world and over 100 institutes in the United States. Despite this apparent success, this dissertation explains why some institutions establish Confucius Institutes, while others close or fail to establish Confucius Institutes. Using qualitative research methods, this project analyzes the experience of seventeen U.S. institutions through interviews and publicly available data and records. Theoretically, this project acknowledges the work of public diplomacy scholars but grounds the research in literature that helps explain the institutions’ decisions from the organizational level. It focuses specifically on the role of internal institutional need, policy entrepreneurs and sponsorship, internal opposition, and the reputation and perception of the transnational Confucius Institute network. Data suggest that an institution’s need and its perception of the larger network are the main drivers of the partnership outcome. The majority of institutions indicated that a desire to start or grow Chinese language programs on campus was a major impetus to the establishment of the Confucius Institute. Similarly, an institution’s perception of the larger transnational Confucius Institute network played an important role in determining partnership outcomes. A number of the closed and failed-to-establish cases, however, had negative experiences with aspects of the network.



Political science, American Higher Education, China, Confucius Institute, Educational Partnerships, International Education, Public Diplomacy