Increasing concern and worry about China's so-called "infiltration" shows a lack of confidence among Western countries, said experts, suggesting it's a clear sign of unwarranted Sinophobia.
Since the concept of "Sharp Power" - a disparaging term invented by Western academics to describe "rising authoritarian influence" - emerged last year, many Western countries have shown increasing concern about China's global outreach.
Politico, a US political news website, reported on Monday that US Republican Senator Marco Rubio is now pushing five Florida educational institutions to end partnerships with China's worldwide culture and education program known as the Confucius Institute. Rubio accused the institute, which are often small on-campus offices run mainly by volunteers, of attempting to "infiltrate American classrooms."
In Europe, some scholars are also adding fuel to the fire. "Political elites in the EU and its close neighbors have started to embrace Chinese rhetoric and interests, including where they contradict national or European interests," said a study released Monday and financed by two Berlin-based think tanks - the Global Public Policy Institute and the Mercator Institute for China Studies.
A report by the European Council on Foreign Relations released last December came to similar conclusions.
China has an ancient saying, "the magistrates are free to burn down houses, while the common people are forbidden even to light the lamps," which is what the West is doing now, said Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China.
Many Western media, think tanks, education organizations, foundations, NGOs and enterprises with links or sponsorships from Western governments and politicians have been trying for decades to affect China's policymaking and public opinion, and now that China has the ability to "return the favor," the West has suddenly taken offense, Wang said.
With China's rapid and stable development, the demand for cooperation and exchanges with China among the Western countries are real and unstoppable, and negating these normal activities is meaningless, and only shows a lack of confidence, Wang said.
Western countries should learn to respect China's legal and reasonable interests, and not harm China's core interests, otherwise it would only make them more divided, "because China is already capable of effectively influencing them," said Song Luzheng, a France-based scholar and research fellow of Fudan University's China Institute.
This situation also reflects that the West is getting less and less confident, Song added. "In Europe, because of Brexit, populism and the migrant crisis, European integration is facing challenge, so it is understandable to see the EU being worried and suspicious."
Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC) and some other EU members hold drastically different views than the EU on China's cooperation with these countries, which is actually helping to boost their economic power to deal with the EU's pressure, Song further noticed.
During the 16+1 summit between China and the CEEC last year, the EU expressed concern about China's influence in Europe, but leaders and elites from CEEC said that the EU had failed to help the block of countries improve their economies.
"China will continue to support the unity of the EU and European integration, and China, just like any other major powers, has the right to safeguard its interests and shape its international image through economic and cultural measures. As long as the EU is friendly to China, it has no need to worry," Song said.
Newspaper headline: Sinophobia shows lack of confidence