The impact of intercultural engagement on cultural understanding through activities offered in Confucius Institutes in Britain

Cai, Liexu (2022) The impact of intercultural engagement on cultural understanding through activities offered in Confucius Institutes in Britain. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The rapid development of the Chinese economy has strongly coincided with Chinese cultural expansion around the world in the last decade. The most significant aspect of China’s cultural promotion is the establishment of the Confucius Institute (CI) overseas by Hanban (Confucius Institute headquarters) of the Ministry of Education in 2004, which is mainly responsible for Chinese language and cultural exchange activities. As overseas organisations funded by the Chinese government, Confucius Institutes (CIs) have seemingly received continuous suspicious views and criticisms particularly in political studies in the West. However, although concerns about CIs have been raised in the West for a number of years now, there arguably remains a lack of related evidence, especially given the dearth of empirical studies that examine what really happens in the day-to-day life of CIs.

Whereas a political discussion of CIs cannot be ignored in studies of CIs, there is arguably also a need to adopt a broader view to examine CIs so as to better understand the actual activities and operations of CIs. By focusing on intercultural engagement through the activities offered by CIs in Britain, this study represents a first attempt to provide a more comprehensive picture of the activity of the CIs in Britain. To address its three research questions, the study employed a mixed-methods approach comprising: a) eighty-two online surveys with activity participants; and b) thirty semi-structured interviews with activity participants and Chinese staff. By comparing the intercultural experiences between activity participants and Chinese staff, potential areas of concordance and discordance of their experience were examined. By investigating the CI activities from a critical intercultural communication perspective, the complex interplay of the power struggles from the macro context were explored to explain varying reasons behind e.g. selection of CI activities. By acknowledging the capacity of self-problematisation, self-transcendence and pluralisation with the critical cosmopolitan perspective from a personal and interpersonal level, this study has examined the self-transformational moments and individual levels of cosmopolitan competence from the activity participants and Chinese staff in the process of critically and reflectively understanding of Self, Other and World. In the end, my study proposes a possible route to cosmopolitan competence through intercultural engagement in Confucius Institutes model. This model is intended to inspire the creation of similar practical models in future studies in other contexts in the field of intercultural communication.

This study presents a significant shift from the emphasis of prior research on political discussion of CI studies to the intercultural communication studies of CIs. In my research, the political dimension is regarded as one of many possible variables from the macro context, rather than as the starting point in my research. Meanwhile, this study focuses on person-to-person level communication and no longer views activity participants and Chinese staff as two distinct groups, but as comprising independent individuals. This shift, in turn, avoids methodological nationalism and moves to a broader paradigm, i.e. methodological cosmopolitanism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from the Chinese Scholarship Council.
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Fagan, Dr. Catherine and Elliot, Dr. Dely
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-83208
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2022 10:16
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2022 10:18
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83208

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