Confucius Institutes and the Network: Communication Approach to Public Diplomacy


Terry Flew, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Falk Hartig, Frankfurt University, Germany
Email: [email protected]
Published: December 2014

Citation: Flew, T., & Hartig, F. (2014). Confucius Institutes and the Network: Communication Approach to Public Diplomacy. IAFOR Journal of Asian Studies, 1(1).


Discussions of public diplomacy in recent years have paid a growing amount of attention to networks. This network perspective is understood to provide insights into various issues of public diplomacy, such as its effects, credibility, reputation, identity and narratives. This paper applies the network idea to analyze China’s Confucius Institutes initiative. It understands Confucius Institutes as a global network and argues that this network structure has potential implications for the operation of public and cultural diplomacy that are perhaps underestimated in existing accounts of Chinese cultural diplomacy. In particular, it is noted that the specific setup of Confucius Institutes requires the engagement of local stakeholders, in a way that is less centralized and more networked than comparable cultural diplomacy institutions. At the same time, the development of a more networked for of public cultural diplomacy is challenged in practice by both practical issues and the configuration of China’s state-centric public diplomacy system informed by the political constitution of the Chinese state.


political communication, government communication, confucius institutes, public diplomacy, soft power, culture, network society