GSU officials saw their Confucius Institute honored in China. Left to right: Managing Director Kimberly Griffin, Executive Director Wolfgang Schlör and senior visiting scholar Shu Zhu.

Georgia State University’s Confucius Institute received a special honor this week from the Chinese Ministry of Education, becoming one of just three such outposts in the U.S. to be spotlighted for its work promoting Chinese language and culture. 

GSU leaders took home the award at the annual conference of the Office of Chinese Language Council International, or Hanban, which administers the more than 300 Chinese-government funded institutes around the world. 

Mostly housed within universities, Confucius Institutes often have a specific bent that aligns with that of the host institution, with Georgia State’s focused heavily on engagement with the local business community.

It recently hosted its annual China Breakfast Briefing, where experts outlined insight on the latest developments in the brewing trade war between the U.S. and China. Collaboration on a variety of events with organizations like the World Affairs Council of Atlanta and the Carter Center was a major factor behind the award, according to a news release. 

But the institute boasted other achievements of its own: Earlier this year it launched a simulcast introductory Chinese course for Perimeter College campuses, providing new opportunities to students newly integrated into the GSU community through consolidation in 2016. 

It also organized study-abroad programs in partnerships with Beijing Language and Culture University and travel programs for working professionals looking for an introduction to China’s educational system. 

Georgia State President Mark Becker, a strong proponent of the institute, traveled to the Hanban conference in Chengdu, China, this week to provide remarks at an introductory banquet before the award ceremony. Wolfgang Schlör, the associate provost for international initiatives, received the award on behalf of Georgia State as executive director of the GSU Confucius Institute. Kimberly Griffin, managing director, also joined the event. 

GSU has one of five institutes Hanban has set up in Georgia over the past decade. Along with two at Kennesaw State University and Emory University, the most recently installed institute at Augusta University focuses on exchanges in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine. Wesleyan College in Macon, which has a long history of China ties, also has welcomed one, and whose president was also in Chengdu to receive an individual award at the conference

The GSU Confucius Institute has continued to play a solid role in Atlanta’s China ties even as the broader bilateral relationship has deteriorated in the last two years. Confucius Institutes have come under fire by U.S. legislators concerned that they are peddling Chinese influence and using their funding leverage to stifle academic discourse critical of China. A group of senators this year called for them to register as foreign agents. 

Proponents say they provide a much-needed funding source to promote understanding of an increasingly influential nation and culture, especially given the dearth of federal government resources allocated to language learning. 

Note of disclosure: Both Georgia State University and its Confucius Institute are advertisers with Global Atlanta, which recently received an award from the university’s Office of International Education. 

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...