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China proposes language centre to enhance understanding

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

The proposed establishment of the Confucius Institute at the Tonga Institute for Higher Education will contribute to development of the Tongan higher education system and promote economic, cultural and academic exchanges between Tonga and China, enhancing friendly cooperation and people-to-people understanding through Chinese language learning.

By Col. (Rtd.) Siamelie Latu

He who learns but does not think, is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.”- Confucius

I sincerely wish to bring to the attention of the Tongan Government and the Ministry of Education and Training as well as the public at large, the importance of teaching Chinese as a foreign language in Tonga. The requirement for foreign students in China is to study Chinese for one year before proceeding further into their major field of study. In order to be successful in one’s major field of study, one must be at a fluency level of the language use for instruction. This is the real life struggle encountered by the Tongan scholarship students who have been studying and are currently studying in China.

The proposed establishment of Confucius Institute (CI) in Tonga will absolutely minimize the struggle of the Tongan students in China to study Chinese language only in one year.

During the official visit of His Majesty, King Tupou VI to the People’s Republic of China in March 2018, the Chinese Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga as a commemoration of this visit and to highlight the strengthening of the diplomatic relations between the two countries. In this MOU, Item III of Article II explicitly states: “China encourages Tonga educational institutions to apply for the establishment of Confucius Institutions (CI) or Chinese language teaching center, and supports Tonga to carry out Chinese language teaching. China will provide Tonga with books, teaching materials and equipment through different channels and send teachers to Tonga to conduct Chinese language teaching.”

Upon approval by the Ministry of Education and Training and the Government of Tonga, Confucius Institute Headquarters will provide the start-up fund to CI at Tonga Institute for Higher Education (TIHE). This fund shall be used for whatever is necessary for setting up the CI in the first year as the operation and administration, publicity and promotion of the projects, organization of teaching and cultural activities, and the purchase of the necessary office furniture and equipment of the CI.

What kind of organization is the Confucius Institute?

The Confucius Institute is an organization set up in foreign countries by China with the principal aims of teaching Chinese, and fostering friendly relations. It was launched in 2004 during the administration of the then President Hu Jintao and managed by the Hanban (Office of Chinese Language Council International), a section of the Chinese Ministry of Education. This Hanban is a national-level organization; in other words, it became the “National Hanban” at the outset of the Hu Jintao administration in 2002.

Although this organization bears the name “Confucius” it has no essential connection with any propagation of the teachings of Confucius or Confucianism. Initially, a perception arose that the then rapidly developing China was being misunderstood by the world, so the institute aimed to promote both Chinese language learning and the training of Chinese language teachers overseas, and through that, to open windows for people all around the world to learn about China and for China to introduce its beautiful language and rich culture to the world.

What makes the establishment of the Confucius Institute different from other countries who promoted their languages and cultures to the world is that it chooses to form agreements with overseas universities, and integrated itself to become part of those universities. In other words, instead of being based on national-level cultural exchange agreements or something similar, Confucius Institutes across the world are established through agreements between universities.

The objective and significance of Confucius

Confucius Institute Tenets. Confucius Institute is a non-profit educational organization and the executive organ of the International Council of Chinese Language, affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education. And this year, it has been transferred to the newly established Chinese International Education Foundation to highlight its civil nature. It is the representation of the diffusion of the language and the culture of China and it provides the services and didactic resources necessary for its teaching, contributing to the multicultural development through the union among universities. For this reason, it focuses its work in:

  1. meeting the needs of those who wish to learn Chinese for various reasons;
  2. increasing the world’s understanding for Chinese language and culture and decrease misunderstandings;
  3. promoting the educational and cultural cooperation between China and the world (learn from each other and develop together, silkworm vs. mulberry tree);
  4. developing friendship between China and foreign countries;
  5. promoting multicultural development for building a harmonious world;
  6. providing certification tests for the teaching of Chinese language as foreign language; and
  7. defining the criteria for the creation of teaching online portals of Chinese language as a foreign language and building a suitable access platform.

Liaocheng University (LCU) and Confucius Institute (CI)

In January 2012, Confucius Institute Headquarters/Hanban entrusted Liaocheng University, as the Chinese partner university, to set up a Confucius Institute in Amman in collaboration with Philadelphia University (PU) of Jordan. On September 16, 2012, H. E. Madam Xu Lin, the State Department Counselor, Director General of Hanban and Chief Executive of Confucius Institute Headquarters, attended the opening ceremony and unveiled the nameplate of the CI at Philadelphia University, Jordan.

Relationship between LCU and Pacific Island Countries (PICs)

Liaocheng University has recognized the importance of the PICs in its research work hence, Liaocheng University established the Research Centre of Pacific Island Countries (RCPIC), which is the first independent research organization on PIC studies in China.  Apart from being supported by Shandong province as one of the earliest pilot units to construct key innovative think tank, RCPIC is also a center for national and regional studies.

On March 30, 2018, H. E. Wang Baodong, former Chinese Ambassador to the Kingdom of Tonga visited the RCPIC, and gave guidance on how to build up the Tonga Institute of Liaocheng University. In July 2018, Hon. Penisimani Fifita, Minister for Education and Training, led a delegation to visit Liaocheng University. The two sides conducted deep negotiations on details of cooperation in setting up the Tonga Institute of Liaocheng University and establishing Confucius Institute. In December of 2018, Shandong Foreign Affairs Office organized a delegation to Tonga, accompanied by LCU personnel, discussed and confirmed on some of educational cooperation affairs with Tonga. In January 2019, entrusted by China’s Ministry of Education, Liaocheng University sent four faculties to teach at Tonga College.  In April 2019, the former Ambassador of Tonga to China, Mr Siamelie Latu and his wife Sesilia Latu who is currently a part time Associate Professor of Liaocheng University visited the RCPIC to deliver academic speeches for the first “Diplomat Forum” at LCU.

CI in Samoa.

CI in Samoa was co-established by the National University of Samoa and the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban), with Liaocheng University as its Chinese partner. Under the leadership of the Confucius Institute Headquarters/Hanban, the Confucius Institute at National University of Samoa (hereafter referred to as CI-NUS) has implemented credit-based Chinese courses, community-outreach Chinese training programs and primary schools Chinese teaching programs. The number of Chinese learners has increased from 16 to 198. The teaching venues, facilities, cultural activities are firmly supported by NUS. Such Chinese traditional festival activities as Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese Lunar New Year as well as the CI Open Day and Chinese Corner events have greatly helped to promote the mutual understanding between the two nations. In addition, this CI is active in recommending Samoan students for Chinese government scholarships, promoting academic exchanges and offering information, consultation services for Chinese enterprises and Chinese immigrants in Samoa to build up a bridge for bilateral cooperation. In April 2019, the CI-NUS successfully sat up the first Chinese testing center in Samoa.

CI at The University of the South Pacific.

The CI at The University of the South Pacific (CI-USP) is headquartered in Suva, Fiji. It was established between The University of the South Pacific (USP) and Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications (BUPT). CI-USP became fully operational in 2012. In March 2014, due to the high demand for Chinese language teaching in the western part of Fiji, CI-USP opened a Teaching Point at USP's Lautoka Campus. In 2015, a Confucius Classroom was established at the Emalus Campus in Vanuatu. Another Confucius Classroom was established in the Cook Islands Campus later that year. CI-USP has had an array of outstanding Chinese language teachers.

CI in Australia.

The Chinese Government through the Hanban, and in partnership with Australian universities, colleges and schools, has established 13 Confucius Institutes and 35 classrooms across Australia. They promote Chinese language and culture in a friendly, accessible and educational way. Confucius Institutes and Classrooms are offered by the Chinese Government to tertiary institutions and high schools globally, with the promise of instruction in Chinese language and culture at discount prices. The appeal of such an offering is understandable, and in Australia such Institutes and Classrooms can now be found at many major universities and high schools:

  • Confucius Institute at the University of Western Australia;
  • Confucius Institute at the University of Melbourne;
  • Confucius Institute at the University of Adelaide;
  • Confucius Institute at the University of Queensland;
  • Confucius Institute at Queensland University of Technology;
  • Confucius Institute at the University of Sydney;
  • Confucius Institute at the University of New South Wales;
  • Chinese Medicine Confucius Institute at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology;
  • Confucius Institute at the University of Newcastle;
  • Confucius Institute at Charles Darwin University;
  • Confucius Institute at New South Wales Department of Education;
  • Business Confucius Institute at Victoria University; and
  • Tourism Confucius Institute at Griffith University.

CI in New Zealand.

The Confucius Institute in Auckland helps to link New Zealand and China through education and culture, through a range of offerings including courses, exams, scholarships, business mentorship and cultural knowledge. There are three Institutions:

  • Confucius Institute in Auckland;
  • Confucius Institute at University of Canterbury; and
  • Confucius Institute at Victoria University of Wellington

CI in Papua New Guinea. 

Papua New Guinea’s government appreciates the importance of having its students speak Mandarin language to its tourists and visitors who visit Papua New Guinea, because it is part of promoting its culture. There is Confucius Institute at Papua New Guinea University of Technology.

Development Plan for CI at Tonga Institute for Higher Education (TIHE)

The objective of setting up a CI at TIHE is to meet the increasing demand of learning Chinese language and culture in Tonga, to promote economic, cultural and academic cooperation and exchange between Tonga and China, and to enhance the mutual understanding and friendly relationship between the two peoples. Through the courses that would be offered, steps can be fastened in cultivating professionals in urgent needs for Tonga economic and social development in the areas of agricultural technology, applied computer technology, tourism and other areas. The establishment of CI at TIHE will help to make complementary contributions to the modernizing of the development of Tongan higher education system and promote the political, economic, cultural and academic exchanges between Tongan and Chinese government, enterprises, and social and educational sections, by which Tonga-China diplomatic relations and cooperation can be further enhanced.


The role of education in Tonga is a very important one as lack of education aggravates the cycle of poverty and slow economic development particularly given the economic status of Tonga as a developing country. The setting up of a CI at TIHE will be a landmark in the cultural and educational exchanges between Tonga and China. It will meet the increasing demand of learning Chinese language and culture in Tonga. It will promote economic, cultural and academic cooperation and exchanges between Tonga and China, in terms of its social development in the areas of agricultural technology promotion, applied computer technology, tourism, and other essential areas.

If the PICs have already established CI in their own respective countries, why not Tonga, given the fact that Tonga and China have established diplomatic relations for 22 years now,  the Chinese enterprises in Tonga give full support to Chinese language teaching and the setting up of Confucius Institute. For example, the CCECC South Pacific Limited, Yanjian Group Tonga Company, Heilongjiang Yanbei Group Limited, and Chinese communities like Hunan Agricultural Group, Shandong Medical Group, Tongan Chinese Federation, Tongan Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and Association of Fellow Cantonese. Foremost, is the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in 2018 to honor the official visit by His Majesty King Tupou V1 and the fact that the MOU was signed with the presence of the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Ping and the King of Tonga. This is a very important aspect to be given serious considerations particularly by the Ministry of Education and Training in Tonga. The presence of the two Heads of States in the signing of the MOU means there’s a consensus by both governments that the MOU be given the highest and serious considerations.

There’s a saying, “Opportunity comes once”. This is a great opportunity for Tonga to consolidate its diplomatic relations with China; strengthen its educational outcomes; offer broader choices of educational adventures for its high school leavers and teachers who could be on teaching exchange schemes teaching English in China; offer more choices to the people of Tonga to enrich better cultural understanding with the local Chinese, and give opportunities to the local Chinese to demonstrate their cultures and celebrations. Consequently, there will be better mutual understanding at the grassroot level because on both sides, there is cultural observations and acceptance. Up to now, a total of 2.1 million people are studying the Chinese language and culture in 511 Confucius Institutes and 1,073 Confucius Classrooms across 140 countries and regions worldwide.

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