This story is part of GlobalAtlanta’s exclusive China special issue, which looks at Georgia companies doing business in China, potential Chinese investment in the state, educational exchange and more. Click here to read more.

Georgia State University last Friday launched a Confucius Institute that will bolster the university’s China programs and provide resources for local companies looking to do business with the country.

Confucius Institutes are Chinese government-funded educational centers promoting Chinese language and culture. The Georgia State center joins a network of more than 300 worldwide.

Georgia State President Mark Becker said the center fills a need at the university, particularly in giving business students broader access to a language that will become even more important as the country’s influence spreads, he said.

“We’ve got the largest business school in the Southeast and one of the largest in the U.S., with a very strong presence in international business. We’ve had some programs in China but we really haven’t had the instruction around Chinese language and culture to support those programs,” Dr. Becker told GlobalAtlanta in an interview.

The center will also help boost Atlantans’ understanding of China’s business culture through special programs, he said.

“It’s important for us to understand and work with the Chinese because of the scale at which that country is operating and the speed at which it is moving. If we are asleep at the switch, we will fall behind,” he said.

In addition to regular Chinese classes, there will be 15-20 annual events focusing on Chinese business practices, law, politics and culture, said Baotong Gu, director of the institute.

“We hope to promote a kind of collaborative relationship between Chinese businesses and American businesses,” Dr. Gu said.

The university is in the process of submitting its budget proposal to the China’s language promotion board, which generally gives at least $100,000-$200,000 to each institute, he said.

Georgia State will hire three new faculty for the institute, one focused on each of three topics: Chinese language, business and politics, Dr. Gu said. Beijing Language and Culture University, Georgia State’s partner institution in the venture, has sent two Chinese language instructors.

The new Confucius Institute is the third in Georgia, the only state to have more than one. Emory University opened one in 2008, followed by Kennesaw State University in 2009.

Georgia State heard at the outset that a third institute in a single state was “pretty much impossible,” but the university received letters of support from major corporations like Coca-Cola Co., Delta Air Lines Inc., United Parcel Service Inc. and others, Dr. Gu said.

The Chinese governing body liked the business focus of the center, which is unique among Confucius Institutes, he added.

Dr. Becker’s experience and relationships also helped. While serving as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of South Carolina, he led a nearly five-year effort to establish a Confucius Institute there in partnership with Beijing Language and Culture University, the same one now working with Georgia State.

It took less than two years for the new institute to go from initial talks to government approval, Dr. Becker said.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...