The Confucius Institute of the University of Dubai is housed in a building named Masaood, a tall structure found off a dusty roundabout about two miles west of the airport. On the day I visit, the UAE is observing National Day, and near the building’s entrance Emirati flags wave in wind smelling of the grilled meat being served as part of a nearby celebration. Up on the fifth floor, where the Institute is housed, signage is in both Arabic and Chinese. Students learn various levels of Mandarin in pristine classrooms.
Such a label was carefully chosen vis-à-vis the goal of the Institutes, says Yun Sun, a fellow with the East Asia Program at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. “The issue of soft power, in the Chinese context, originates from a belief that the world is suspicious of China’s rise. The thinking goes that if people know China better, they will have a better reaction to China’s foreign policy.”
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