Who Speaks for China?

Translating Geopolitics through Language Institutes in Costa Rica

in Journal of Chinese Overseas

Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic analysis of a Confucius Institute and two private schools, this article analyzes how diverse Chinese language institutes in Costa Rica have sought to capitalize on a growing local interest in learning Mandarin Chinese. It argues that a shifting global geopolitics has increased the perceived value of Chinese language acquisition and, thus, the stakes for language institutes seeking to assert their cultural authority as legitimate purveyors of Chinese and Chineseness. Through analysis of these schools’ projected identities and pedagogical styles, I show how they distinguish themselves from one another on the basis of public versus private ownership, choice-based versus authoritarian instructional style, and Taiwanese versus Mainland or diasporic roots. Building on the concept of the “Sinophone,” I highlight both the diversity of the forms and locations of Chineseness these initiatives represent and their implications for who can legitimately speak for China in Costa Rica.

Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic analysis of a Confucius Institute and two private schools, this article analyzes how diverse Chinese language institutes in Costa Rica have sought to capitalize on a growing local interest in learning Mandarin Chinese. It argues that a shifting global geopolitics has increased the perceived value of Chinese language acquisition and, thus, the stakes for language institutes seeking to assert their cultural authority as legitimate purveyors of Chinese and Chineseness. Through analysis of these schools’ projected identities and pedagogical styles, I show how they distinguish themselves from one another on the basis of public versus private ownership, choice-based versus authoritarian instructional style, and Taiwanese versus Mainland or diasporic roots. Building on the concept of the “Sinophone,” I highlight both the diversity of the forms and locations of Chineseness these initiatives represent and their implications for who can legitimately speak for China in Costa Rica.

Introduction

In 2004, Lin Chang,1 a Taiwanese-born, us-educated Costa Rican woman, decided to found a Chinese language academy in San Jose, Costa Rica, in response to a growing interest in Chinese language and culture on the part of a Costa Rican business class increasingly looking to China. Up to that point, only the Buddhist Temple in San Jose offered Mandarin classes, and Lin described Costa Rican interest in the language as nascent, but with strong potential for expansion. In deciding how to name her school, Lin consulted a colleague at the local university who asked her, “Who is the most renowned person associated with China?” She answered, “Confucius,” and from there came the school’s original name, Instituto Confucio or the Confucius Institute.2

Unfortunately for Lin, her language-study institute was inaugurated on the very same day in 2007 that the Costa Rican state abruptly announced the end to its 50-plus-year partnership with the Republic of China (hereinafter Taiwan), and the establishment of formal diplomatic relations with the Peoples’ Republic of China (hereinafter China). While Lin, like many Costa Ricans, felt dismay at the sudden change in diplomatic relations given Taiwan’s long history of friendship and development assistance, her reasons for ruing the new partnership were unique. After all, in appreciation of its new diplomatic recognition China gifted Costa Rica a national stadium and promised, among other things, the inauguration of a Confucius Institute — the Chinese state’s signature language and culture study initiative — to be managed as a partnership between Renmin University in Beijing and the University of Costa Rica in San Jose. The fruits of the diplomatic rapprochement thus provoked a protracted legal battle between dueling “Confucius Institutes” — one a private school located in a private building known as the “former Chinese embassy”3 and owned by a diasporic businesswoman with roots in Taiwan, and the other a Chinese state-sponsored institute located on the campus of the University of Costa Rica and supported by Beijing. The Chinese government eventually won that battle, forcing Lin to change the name of her school to Kung Tse Instituto Oriental Confucio (Kung Tse Confucius Oriental Institute, hereinafter Kung Tse), but the debate highlighted how the rising value of Chinese language as a global commodity was catalyzing competing intersections of identity and geopolitics on the ground in Costa Rica.

figure 1
figure 1
Kung Tse Instituto Oriental Confucio, San Jose, Costa Rica.

Citation: Journal of Chinese Overseas 13, 2 (2017) ; 10.1163/17932548-12341354

Photo by author.

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In this paper, I analyze three Chinese-language schools in Costa Rica that illustrate how shifting global geopolitics translate into local forms of cultural authority. In particular, I highlight the growing importance of standard Mandarin Chinese (putonghua 普通话) as a valued asset among Costa Ricans who seek economic opportunities in or through China. However, rather than a study of student goals for or experiences of Chinese-language learning, my main interest here is in how local Chinese-language schools have attempted to situate their own institutional and pedagogical identities as an authentic source of Chineseness in relation to this growing consumer base. To that end, I trace how these language schools have located their authority to teach Chinese along three different registers: (1) as private versus public initiatives, (2) as student-centered versus authoritarian instructional styles, and (3) as rooted in Taiwan, Beijing, or the diaspora. In doing so, my analysis moves beyond studies of Chinese public diplomacy through Chinese-language diffusion and its presumed political project (Churchman 2011, Hughes 2014, Sahlins 2014), to examine instead politics within the “Sinophone” (Barmé 2005, McDonald 2011, Shih 2007), or the multiple places beyond China where Chinese culture is being defined, engaged, appropriated, and even opposed by constituencies commonly understood as part of the Chinese diaspora. More specifically, how do competing purveyors of Chinese-language instruction in Costa Rica position themselves discursively and pedagogically in relation to diverse and often conflicting views of China and Chineseness as they try to legitimize their own institutional efficacy?

This analysis is based on five summers of ethnographic field research conducted in San Jose, Costa Rica, between 2011 and 2015. As part of a larger project that analyzes China’s growing impact on development politics in Central America, the research included more than 50 formal, recorded interviews with local politicians, diplomatic representatives, development-project administrators and engineers, foundation directors, and association members; countless informal interviews with Costa Rican citizens; and site visits and participant observation at various development projects and Chinese community events. I engaged the language programs described herein as one among many entry points into local perspectives and politics regarding China. In other words, what new initiatives had the shift in diplomatic relations inspired? Who was benefiting from the new diplomatic relations and how? Did people see China as a development opportunity or as a threat?

At each of the schools, I interviewed program directors, visited and observed operations, and spoke informally with students. I explored questions such as: What could their program and student body tell us about Costa Ricans’ perspectives on China? Who was teaching and studying Chinese and why? What was the relationship between their school and the Chinese embassy? How did the Confucius Institute — the emblematic focus of Chinese public-diplomacy efforts globally — compare with other Chinese language institutes in terms of its structure and local projection? At the Confucius Institute, I was able to sit in on a week of classes, while at the other schools I observed classes in session without participating personally.

This methodological overview thus prompts a few caveats regarding the contributions and limits of this analysis. First, the article analyzes the representations and strategies mobilized by these language institutions rather than student experience at the respective schools.4 Therefore, although I speak to general student motivations and classroom pedagogy, my concern here is not so much the content or outcome of language instruction but rather how the schools are promoting Chinese to prospective students and comparing themselves to one another. As such, this analysis examines Chinese language-learning institutes for what they reflect about China’s ascendance within the global political economy and the corresponding value attached to Chinese-language learning in places like Central America. The analysis also illuminates the dynamic and varied landscape of private Chinese-language initiatives that have emerged alongside the Confucius Institutes — a phenomenon often eclipsed in other studies of Confucius Institutes, but essential to understanding who gets to speak for China. Consequently, instead of offering a normative assessment of Confucius Institute language instruction, I ask how it, along with other language initiatives in Costa Rica, distinguishes and positions itself in relation to an emergent geopolitical context defined by China.

The Politics of the Sinophone: Saying “Global” in Chinese

China’s fantastic domestic growth, increasing power within the global political economy, and growing presence within international institutions over the last two decades have stirred widespread recognition that it is “transforming the world” (Kurlantzick 2007). And despite the continued global linguistic hegemony of English, acknowledgment of China’s ascendance has provoked interest in Chinese-language fluency as something of a passport into a global future (Ding and Saunders 2006, Erard 2006, Zhu and Li 2014) or even a new global language (Gil 2011). This dynamic is evident, for example, in the 51 per cent increase in Chinese-language enrollment in us institutions of higher education between 2002 and 2006 (Furman, et al. 2007) and the discourse of North American graduates who identify Chinese language as a way to distinguish themselves from their peers and secure a global professional future (Hubbert 2014, Hughes 2014, Stambach 2014). In Latin America, where bilateral relations between China and regional states are relatively new, the dearth of agents with appropriate language and cultural skills to act as translators of growing transpacific relations has made Chinese-language acquisition that much more valuable. And this despite the presence of many local Chinese communities constituted through multiple waves of Chinese migration from the Pearl River Delta region, Hong Kong, and Macao, as well as a historical pattern of diplomatic affiliation with Taiwan. Therefore, in Latin America the current moment has accentuated the stakes of acquiring the language skills associated with China, even as it has also raised the question of what counts as China or who counts as Chinese.

Of course, the growing contemporary interest in putonghua is perhaps just the most recent example of a long history of local, national, and global politics staged on the terrain of language. Indeed, within the Chinese national context, language clearly figures as a site of power relations and state politics. For example, within China there are at least seven recognized regional dialects of Chinese; however, it was not until the Republican Period (1912-1949) that China adopted Mandarin as the official National Language (guoyu). And the ambiguous status of China’s 56 ethnic groups and spoken dialects reflects the ongoing centrality of language to national politics. As a case in point, Tibetan is recognized as the official language of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, and yet many would argue that the Chinese state’s intense language-standardization policies have essentially rendered Tibetan functionally irrelevant and politically suspect (Shakya 1994, Yeh 2013). Furthermore, Mandarin continues to be the official language of international communication despite the fact that the majority of Chinese abroad speak dialects other than Mandarin (Li 2016:2).

The complex politics within Greater China — i.e., Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau — illustrate some of the broader dimensions of these language politics. For much of the Cold War, Taiwan served as the official site for international Chinese-language study through the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies (iup), created by Stanford University at the National Taiwan University in Gongguan, Taipei, in 1961. However, in 1997, a new iup was established at Tsinghua University in Beijing, essentially moving the seat of Mandarin-Chinese learning to China. Today, Taiwan’s Mandarin is distinguished from Beijing’s not only by grammatical and enunciative differences but also by the use of traditional characters instead of simplified script. Therefore, cross-Strait political and cultural tensions are forcefully articulated through the expression and institutionalization of Chinese language forms. Who gets to represent and disseminate Chinese internationally contributes to producing and legitimizing shifting geopolitical formations (Churchman 2011).

Hong Kong, where Cantonese dominates, on the other hand, operated as the locus for the language of Chinese commerce and popular culture. Serving as the port of exit for nineteenth-century contract labor migrations from the Pearl River Delta area to the Americas, Cantonese has thus been the dominant language of diasporic communities (haiwai Huaren) within the Western Hemisphere. More recently, China’s export-commodity production in Special Economic Zones along China’s southeastern coastline has similarly privileged Cantonese as the language of international commerce within China (Pun 2005). Hong Kong has also served as the source of global cultural production such as books, kung fu movies, and culinary traditions (see Churchman 2011, Zhu and Li 2014). Therefore, Cantonese reflects a long history of Chinese flows and networks that speak to a global Chinese ethnic identity that is not necessarily correlated with Chinese state policy and has at times even been articulated in opposition to it.5 As these examples illustrate, differences in Chinese dialect and script connote and reproduce heterogeneity within Chinese-speaking communities and the dynamic politics that define relations among its subjects and circuits.

It comes as no surprise then that China’s current efforts to increase its global attractiveness or “soft power” have focused on the dissemination of standard Mandarin-Chinese language through public diplomacy tools like its Confucius Institutes (hereinafter ci) — Chinese language and culture programs hosted by local universities around the world. As evidence of the global aspirations of these policies, Hanban, the National Office of Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, seeks to establish one thousand such cis by 2020. By 2014 as many as 97 universities had agreed to host a ci as a way of increasing resources; however, those agreements and the resources they bring have not been without controversy. At an institutional level, critics have raised concerns about the cis’ latent political goals and, thus, their potential threat to academic freedom in terms of the kind of events the ci will sponsor or the kind of scholarship the ci will support (Guadiano 2014, Hughes 2014, Sahlins 2015). For some, even the language-learning goals of the cis are suspect given how the promotion of putonghua and simplified characters as the official form of Chinese language might work to control the messages and kinds of texts that can be taught (Churchman 2011). Therefore, the global rise in interest in putonghua cannot be separated from Chinese state efforts to proliferate and regulate Chinese-language speakers not only within but also beyond national borders.

These heterogeneous language practices and histories, linked to both geopolitics and specific local places and identities, cue us to the politics of what some scholars have called the “Sinophone.” Shu-Mei Shih defines the Sinophone as “a network of places of cultural production outside China and on the margins of China and Chineseness, where a historical process of heterogenizing and localizing of continental Chinese culture has been taking place for several centuries” (2007:4). In this formulation, Shih highlights not a shared Chinese ethnic or racial identity across diaspora but rather places where Sinitic languages are spoken, be it Malaysia, Peru, Taiwan, or the United States. For this reason, she describes the Sinophone as a fertile space of everyday practice which can either corroborate or contest nationalist formulations, functioning as “a site of both a longing for and a reflection of various constructions of Chineseness; it can be a site of both nationalism of the long-distance kind, anti-China politics, or even non-relation with China, whether real or imaginary” (ibid.:30). In this sense, the Sinophone “maintains a precarious and problematic relation to China” rather than a natural affinity based on blood, birthplace or ideology (ibid.:30).

The Sinophone is an analytically productive concept for understanding Chinese-language study globally because of its ability to signal the importance of language as a defining feature of political relations within and across communities, especially relative to state policies. Rather than the concept of Chinese diaspora, which may suggest that Chineseness is an “inescapable, ontological, a priori condition” (Shih 2007:184; see also Groppe 2013 and Wang 1993), Sinophone helps us think through the diverse experiences of local agents in different historical and geographical contexts. These differences shape subjects’ claims to diverse forms of China, Chinese, and Chineseness, intersecting with Chinese state policies to change the meaning and value of Chinese language within the global landscape. To draw a connection to the case at hand, analyzing Costa Rican language schools through the Sinophone helps us to understand how they might alternately situate themselves within and capitalize on a rising interest in China and Chinese while actively contesting and distancing themselves from the Chinese state through the articulation of different forms of identity.

Scholars who have engaged with the concept of the Sinophone have also underlined the importance not only of the production of diverse Chinese language and cultural practices across time and space, but also the consumption of the same by new “communities of users of Chinese who learn, employ and creatively engage with living Sinitic legacies” (Barmé 2010). Zhu and Li (2014), for example, have studied how the instruction of putonghua within Confucius Institutes can alienate or “foreignize” ethnic-Chinese language learners who speak different dialects. Meanwhile, in his 2010 China Beat blog posting, entitled “China’s Promise,” Geremie Barmé emphasized the important role that these Chinese-language speakers will play in continuing to transform the Sinophone through their own enmeshment in Chinese:

Speaking, using, writing Chinese, imagining through Chinese, creating with Chinese colleagues — these are all acts that enrich not only those who live in Chinese but those who grow through Chinese, adding thereby to the multifarious heritages of the Chinese world.

Barmé 2010

Therefore, when contemplating the politics of Chinese-language learning, we must consider both the shifting meaning and value of Chinese-language acquisition in the current geopolitical order, as well as the economic, political, and cultural stakes of embodying Chineseness by institutions that would promote its local consumption. These two strands of analysis draw our attention to heterogeneous forms within the Sinophone and how they come to bear on different local agents’ ability to assert cultural authority in relation to “complex relations with such constructs as China, Chinese, and Chineseness” (Shih 2007: 4).

Translating Chinese in Costa Rica

The significance of these global politics, as expressed through language, can be seen clearly in Costa Rica, China’s newest partner in Latin America. A longtime political ally and cultural admirer of the United States, Costa Rica is known within Central America for its strong democratic tradition, its lack of a standing army, its high level of education and literacy (95 per cent) and its high proportion of English-language speakers (estimated at 50.53 per cent by Education First, English Proficiency Index 2015). These linguistic attributes reflect, in part, a largely white, middle-class demographic as well as the nation’s strong investment in us regional hegemony during the Cold War. However, these dynamics have been reinforced by the strong presence of North American companies that come to Costa Rica to take advantage of its political stability, economic development, and bilingualism.6 Among the relatively small number of Costa Rican students pursuing studies in Asian languages, Chinese has thus historically trailed behind Japanese; however, those students who have had an explicit interest in Chinese would follow the path set by Costa Rica-Taiwan bilateral relations to study abroad in Taipei or take Chinese language classes given by Taiwanese university instructors.

Costa Rica’s linguistic landscape has been further defined by the presence of a small but notable and diverse ethnic-Chinese community, estimated to number between 10,000 and 30,000 and made up mainly of Cantonese-speaking migrants from Guangdong (see DeHart 2015, Ma and Cartier 2003). Community members range from third-generation descendants of nineteenth century coolie labor arrivals to Mandarin-speaking migrants from Taiwan who emigrated in the 1950s-70s to more recent migrants who left mainland China in the 1980s. Newcomers to Costa Rica from Hong Kong and Macao tend to speak Cantonese and some degree of Mandarin. Therefore, the Chinese community in Costa Rica reflects the diversity of the Sinophone, including the heterogeneous political, linguistic, and cultural attributes that define it more broadly.

However, with the 2007 diplomatic switch to Beijing, Costa Rica adopted a relatively more China-centric orientation made manifest by the adoption of a new free-trade agreement and the establishment of new municipal collaborations and university exchanges with Mainland China (DeHart 2015). The Costa Rican government began to cultivate a new cohort of diplomatic corps with which it could better engage China, while also promoting private transpacific business initiatives, investment by Chinese state companies, an increase in Chinese tourism to Costa Rica, and increased academic exchanges between university students and scholars. All of these efforts exposed the relative lack of language and cultural competence among traditional business and political brokers on both sides of the Pacific, thus catalyzing efforts to increase a new generation of Mandarin speakers in Costa Rica.

As a result, since 2007 there has been a steady uptick in the number of public and private elementary and high schools offering Chinese language instruction. By 2013, over 10 local schools were known to be offering Chinese-language classes (Ross 2013b). These programs included both language instruction through instructors arranged “in-house” as well as at least two private schools that were collaborating with the Chinese embassy and Hanban to promote Confucius Classrooms (Ross 2013b). By August 2016, collaborations between the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Education and the Chinese embassy had spread to incorporate Chinese-language classes in six public schools with instruction by native Chinese teachers arranged by the embassy (Cerdas 2016, Xinhuanet 2016). In introducing this initiative, Sonia Mora, Costa Rican Minister of Education, spoke to both its material and symbolic value, noting that “with the intensification of political, economic, commercial and cultural relations between both nations, knowing Chinese gives students more employment opportunities” (Xinhuanet 2016).

In addition to these governmental efforts, many Costa Ricans also began to perceive Mandarin language as key to global upward mobility in their own right (Levin 2011, Ross 2013a). In speaking to student motivations for Chinese-language study among Costa Rican adults, Lin, the founder of Kung Tse, highlighted her students’ changing ideas of China itself. As she put it, “Ticos7 know that the money is there [in China]. They’re interested in economic relations. They see China as trendy (de moda) and they know it’s important for business.” This instrumental perspective echoed a view commonly voiced in Costa Rican and Chinese media announcements but also spoke to the increasing personal experience of Costa Rican entrepreneurs trying to do business in China (Ross 2013a). More interestingly still, Lin located this shift in peoples’ views on China not simply in monetary terms but also in relation to the longstanding cultural hegemony of the United States and the promise of global upward mobility it historically symbolized. She described how “[i]nstead of the American Dream now it’s the Chinese Dream. [Costa Ricans] want to go study there, do business there. They see it as more modern” (personal interview, August 15, 2015). Although Lin couldn’t elaborate on how much people were referencing Xi Jinping’s formulation of the “China Dream” as a specific set of Chinese state policies versus a symbolic corollary to the myth of the “American Dream,” she affirmed their sense of China’s rising global status and their desire to learn Chinese to access some part of it.

Following this same logic, private, for-profit language institutes in Costa Rica have tried to capitalize on this growing interest in China, advertising themselves as a vehicle for Costa Ricans to access the economic potential of China. As one local school notes on its webpage,

The rising influence of China in an ever-more globalized world is making it so many more people need to learn Chinese and its millenary culture. The initiation of commercial relations between China and Costa Rica has made many businesspeople and enterprising youth seek to improve their professional horizons and they see learning Chinese as a real opportunity for growth.

Universal de Idiomas 2016

And because these aspirational advertisements underscore the importance of acquiring Chinese-language skills as a valuable commodity for upward mobility, there are significant economic, political, and cultural stakes for the institutions that can claim to embody the right intersection of identity and transnational connections to authoritatively harness China for local consumption.

Changing Politics of Language Identity and Instruction

In what follows, I provide a brief sketch of three different language schools in Costa Rica in order to illustrate their competing formulations of Chinese language, each of which seeks to locate its cultural authority in distinct identities, geographies, and methods. One institution is the Chinese state-sponsored Confucius Institute. Located on the campus of the University of Costa Rica, the institute offers language instruction, cultural programming, and academic-exchange opportunities for Costa Rican students and community members interested in China. Its language courses are taught primarily by Chinese native-speakers trained and certified in China. The other two schools are private initiatives, located off the university campus but within the greater San Jose area. These schools also offer language instruction and cultural programming; however, their instructors include teachers from other locations in the Sinophone, including local ethnic Chinese and Taiwanese.

In describing who they are and how they operate, these three institutions distinguish themselves from one another through the discourse of private versus public initiatives, student choice versus state imposition, and Taipei- versus Beijing-based connections. Notably, the owners of the two private institutions, Lin (Kung Tse) and Kevin (aiec), highlight their own cultural authority while distancing themselves from what they describe as the authoritarian, rigid, imposed, and propaganda-motivated nature of language instruction at the Confucius Institute. Furthermore, they depict their own liberal, dynamic pedagogical systems and local bicultural background as Chinese Costa Ricans — or “Chino Ticos” as many of the younger first-generation described themselves — as an antidote to that Chinese state system. In doing so, however, they also try to distinguish themselves from one another on the basis of diverse forms of language legitimacy: one deriving from a Taiwanese native Mandarin background and the other projecting the merits of a Beijing-trained Cantonese background. As such, their narratives and practices alert us to the problem of using an umbrella notion of diasporic Chineseness which posits “degrees of Chineseness” that can be “more Chinese and another can be less Chinese and Chinese effectively becomes evaluatable, measurable, and quantifiable” (Shih 2007:27). Furthermore, they highlight how among subjects who identify with or are identified as Chinese, “ ‘Not speaking Chinese’… has been hegemonically constructed as a lack, a sign of loss of authenticity” (Eng 2001:30). Therefore, rather than embodying a cultural spectrum of authentic Chineseness to validate their authority, I argue that Lin and Kevin are both deploying different ideas of how China matters as both a form of identity and as something to be consumed.

Confucius Institute

The 2007 diplomatic switch ushered in a new era of Chinese-language study for Costa Ricans, marked by new referents and new institutional structures. Following immediately on the heels of the diplomatic announcement, Taiwan withdrew its education funding to Costa Rica and terminated all scholarship contracts, so that 16 Costa Rican students studying Mandarin in Taipei were transferred over to Beijing to continue their studies there (Claramunt 2011, cited in Alexander 2014:81). The arrival of a Confucius Institute in Costa Rica in 2009 then solidified this larger shift from Taiwan to Beijing-based language authority.

When the Confucius Institute opened its doors at the University of Costa Rica in 2009, it did so under the name of the “Program for the Diffusion of Chinese Culture at the University of Costa Rica,” officially assuming the name of Confucius Institute in 2011 with the resolution of the lawsuit described at the outset of this article. Like the approximately 490 other Confucius Institutes throughout the world, the Confucius Institute at the University of Costa Rica was structured as a partnership with a Chinese university (in this case, Renmin University in Beijing), and uses teachers from China trained by the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (Hanban 2017). The ci is located centrally in the campus’ old rectory, which was remodeled to house the ci and to include the placement of a bronze statue of Confucius outside its doors, and is affiliated with the School of Modern Languages. The ci touts this relationship to the ucr as framing its mission and distinguishing the ci from other private language-instruction programs (Instituto Confucio “Nuestro Instituto”). Like most ci programs worldwide, the program is run jointly by a Costa Rican faculty member who operates as the Local Director and a faculty member from the partner Chinese institution who functions as the Chinese Co-Director. Because both the local administration and the teachers of the ci rotated on a regular basis, ucr students and faculty tended to associate the institute more with the Chinese state than with its local director.

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Instituto Confucio, University of Costa Rica.

Citation: Journal of Chinese Overseas 13, 2 (2017) ; 10.1163/17932548-12341354

Photo by author.

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Despite its placement within the university, the ci has tended to cater more to local professionals and community members than to university students per se. Classes at the ci are held at hours that accommodate business professionals and adult community members and include “intensive” accelerated courses that do not follow the regular university schedule. At the cost of approximately us $170 per semester, tuition at the ci was more affordable than at private institutions like Kung Tse (see below).8 Perhaps for this reason, in 2011 those enrolled at the ci included 30 per cent regular university students and 10-15 per cent university staff, while the remaining 55 per cent were professionals from the general population (Achio 2011 cited in Alexander 2014:85; see also Churchman 2011). Because of the presence of non-matriculated university students, other faculty at the ucr mentioned to me that the Confucius Institute seemed to stand outside the regular university, appearing fairly detached from regular university curricula, schedule, and faculty (a point repeated in analyses of other cis, see Churchman 2011). Indeed, one colleague noted that even after the ci’s arrival, most “regular” ucr students continued to take Mandarin-language classes in the ucr’s foreign-language department, where the bulk of the instructors were from or had been trained in Taiwan.

When I attended classes at the ci in 2012 that trend was only somewhat reflected in the student body, which included eleven students, nine of whom were twenty-something, typical college students studying topics such as international relations or politics. Representing the broader community, however, the course also included a female student in her thirties, Shirley, who had lived in Chengdu province of China for four years during her husband’s employment with the Intel there, and Alberto, a man in his fifties, who hoped to travel to China to study art. The young Chinese teacher for the course, trained by Hanban in Beijing, structured the three-hour courses mainly around the projection of slides highlighting vocabulary, which students dutifully transcribed into their notebooks and then practiced pronouncing together in accordance with her call-and-response technique. When students asked their teacher, in Spanish, the meaning of a particular Chinese term, she often responded easily in an Iberian-inflected Spanish,9 although at times would note that “In English they taught us that this means….” The courses culminated in dyad work in which students were asked to practice the material in the form of a dialogue. The content of the lessons more or less reflected language instruction more generally, including phrases about free time, hobbies, the weather, and appellatives. The teacher tended to draw upon characters from popular animated films (at that time Kung Fu Panda or Madagascar) to illustrate her points.10

By 2015, the Costa Rican ci seemed to have become more integrated into the local university. Faculty associated with the ci noted that the classes were full and that the institute had added a full day of instruction on Saturday. The teachers continued to be Hanban-trained instructors from China, but Costa Ricans who had participated in university-exchange and language-immersion programs in China also contributed to co-curricular events sponsored by the ci, such as a radio program — Costa Rica Ni Hao — led by ci students.

These changes in university relations and programs thus marked a new phase in Chinese-Costa Rican cultural relations that have cemented Beijing’s place as the official source of Mandarin-language learning. Since 2007, China has offered 40 scholarships to Costa Rican students, essentially doubling the number allotted previously by Taiwan and highlighting the emphasis that China puts on language study and academic exchange as sites of public diplomacy (Alexander 2014). What is more, the demand for these programs has exceeded capacity, a sharp contrast to the easily accommodated applications by students who wanted to study Chinese in Taiwan before 2007 (Ibid.: 82).

Kung Tse Institute Oriental Confucio

Lin Chang, the owner and director of the private language school (and Confucius Institute’s original rival) Kung Tse, was born in Taiwan, but moved to Costa Rica as a teenager. She completed her college education on the West Coast of the United States and is as fluent in English as she is in Spanish or Mandarin. Upon returning to Costa Rica after college, she became loosely connected to the local Chinese Association, and she initiated several private enterprises selling Chinese culture to the Costa Rican population, including a Chinese food service (See Figure 3), and eventually the language school. As a testament to Lin’s business acumen and the growing demand for Chinese-language instruction, by 2015, Kung Tse’s enrollment had doubled to more than 200 students and 10-20 teachers, most of Taiwanese origin, but increasingly including mainland teachers who had married Costa Ricans.

As noted at the outset, Lin’s language institute Kung Tse was one of the first language institutes in Costa Rica dedicated to Mandarin instruction. Like the other schools described here, Kung Tse’s student population consisted mainly of business professionals, university students, and children of local ethnic-Chinese residents. According to Lin, many of the business professionals who enroll at the school have traveled to China and have realized that even with English they are unable to maneuver effectively in even the most basic tasks. She described one businessman’s realization that in business negotiations the numbers seemed to inflate along with the translation, so he had sought out Mandarin-language instruction to keep better track of his bottom lines.

But Costa Rican professionals were not the only ones to recognize China’s rising economic importance, and the 2007 diplomatic switch engendered not only more interest in China as a global economic power but also more competition among local institutions that sought to feed the growing demand for language instruction. Lin recounts that when China came to town, then-President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias asked Lin to change the name of her school in deference to China’s proprietary use of the name ci for its language-instruction institutions abroad. She refused, and when the government tried to force her to change her business name, Lin brought a lawsuit. As discussed above, that lawsuit lasted 4 years, and although the Chinese government ultimately emerged with rights to the name (thus forcing Lin to change her name), the legal battle prevented the ci from opening under the name of ci until 2011.

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figure 3
Mama Ding Food Products. Official advertisement.

Citation: Journal of Chinese Overseas 13, 2 (2017) ; 10.1163/17932548-12341354

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In describing the differences between the ci and her own language institute, Lin highlighted the heavy role of the Chinese state in structuring ci instruction, seeing it as an extension of a “communist” regime whose style was to “arrive and impose.” She saw ci classes as oriented toward pure language instruction with no focus on culture (despite the ci’s claims to the contrary). And even where they did teach language, she argued that the ci instructors did not speak sufficient Spanish or English to be able to effectively engage and explain Mandarin to their Costa Rican clients in the way that she could, as a bicultural Chino Tico who had lived in Costa Rica. Her fears about the ideological goals of the ci came up repeatedly during our conversations, as she asked about academic scholarship on cis that would validate her suspicions that the institutes did more propaganda than teaching language.

At Kung Tse, by contrast, she noted that the classes focus on a more holistic education, anchored in the culture. That said, given the increasing proliferation of Chinese-language instruction initiatives and especially intercambio (conversational exchange) initiatives that students could pursue for free at other institutions in town, Lin emphasized how her institution’s intensive classes focus on rapid student progress and conversational competence. Indeed, she noted that their very rigorous curriculum made possible language proficiency within approximately four years. In this context of heightened competition, she justified her higher tuition fees — approximately us $360 per semester and, thus, more than double the price of the ci — based on her school’s commitment to getting people competent in Chinese language and culture. In 2015 Lin was also expanding her school’s offerings to include a course geared specifically toward business language for professionals, targeting a more affluent demographic than the ci. In this way, she hoped to further hone a niche market within the language-instruction field by catering specifically to the business vocabulary and professional cultural comportment required by prospective Costa Rican entrepreneurs.

Integral Academy of Chinese Instruction (aiec)

As Lin suggested, the Confucius Institute’s inauguration in 2009 was accompanied by the proliferation of private Mandarin-language schools in Costa Rica. Already in 2011, the number of language institutes in Costa Rica’s central valley had grown to at least ten, and by 2014 there were significantly more schools, most privately-owned but at least one other supported by the Chinese embassy (but not a Confucius Institute). Among those burgeoning private institutions was the Integral Academy of Chinese Instruction (aiec). While not the largest institute, the aiec was unique in the way that it brought together local ethnic-Chinese ownership, Beijing-based language credentials, and an explicit affiliation with the local Chinese community.

aiec emerged as the private initiative of Kevin Wong, a first-generation Costa Rican of Chinese descent and a self-described “Chino Tico”. His parents migrated from Guangdong in the 1980s and Kevin had spent time working in his family’s restaurant before his parents moved into real estate and became prominent property managers in San Jose. After completing high school in Costa Rica, Kevin traveled to China rather than the us, as Lin and other local ethnic Chinese in Costa Rica were wont to do. And in China, Kevin did not go to his family’s ancestral village (as do many first-generation Chinese) but rather to Beijing to study Mandarin. Given that his parents spoke Cantonese, Kevin’s choice to study putonghua in Beijing was thus exceptional (DeHart 2017). He began by studying Mandarin at the University of Language and Culture in Beijing and then pursued his Bachelor’s degree at the Communications University of China becoming, in his words, “the first Latin American to receive a Bachelor’s in that major.” Upon his return to Costa Rica in 2012, Kevin earned a rare teaching position at the Confucius Institute at the University of Costa Rica, making him the only instructor at the ucr Institute neither raised in China nor trained by Hanban. Kevin taught there until opening the aiec in 2014. While the use of Hanban-trained locals may be common at other Confucius Institutes globally, Kevin was criticized by competitors for his apparent lack of Beijing certification, unlike other ci instructors.

Kevin co-ran the institute with his wife, Cindy, who had also followed a unique path to Chinese. Another first-generation Costa Rican of Chinese descent, Cindy had pursued a degree in business administration in the us before moving to China to study Mandarin. Therefore, while Lin invoked her background in Taiwan to explain her Chineseness both to her students and to me, Cindy cited her Beijing-acquired Chinese-language skills and cultural capital as a unique form of legitimacy, especially in light of Costa Rica’s bilateral relations with the prc. Together with Kevin and one other local Chinese instructor, their business model thus hinged on leveraging their ethnic Chinese and Costa Rican backgrounds as well as their foreign-language training in mainland China to construct Chineseness in simultaneously local and global ways.

A much smaller school than the ci or Kung Tse, aiec was located in the heart of San Jose’s Chinatown, where Kevin promoted its identity as both an authoritative source of Mandarin-language and Chinese cultural instruction and an articulation of the local ethnic-Chinese community. The school markets itself as an explicit alternative to the rigidity and narrowness of the Confucius Institute, noting that the school was formed out of a movement by students studying with Kevin at the Confucius Institute to construct a more dynamic pedagogical environment, “by students for students.” The student body mainly comprised university-aged students and the marketing emphasized its youthful orientation. That said, the 2015 tuition fee of approximately $120 an academic quarter for Mandarin classes (roughly comparable to Kung Tse for a nine-month academic year subscription) and $33 a month for cooking and other cultural classes again marked aiec out as an option for the affluent, compared with the ci.

In addition to language instruction, the aiec curriculum included courses on Chinese culture, both as practiced in Beijing and as part of diasporic traditions in Costa Rica, and placed a heavy focus on “experiential” learning, involving not only field trips but cooking, martial arts, and dance. Therefore, while all the language schools described here similarly focus on Chinese culture as well as language, Kevin’s emphasis on the cultural component of the curriculum referenced the pedagogical culture of the school as well as its emphasis on a holistic notion of Chinese cultural studies. Instead of simply reproducing Chinese stereotypes, Kevin felt these physical and culinary activities, when offered alongside language instruction, presented a more dynamic view of Chinese culture, especially as elaborated in the diaspora, rather than in China proper (personal Interview, August 4, 2015). As further evidence of this local embeddedness, the school maintained an active affiliation with the local Chinese Association, a diasporic organization made up largely of Cantonese-speaking migrants and their descendants. Therefore, while the school sought to teach correct putonghua, it also sought to teach students about the meaning and practice of Chinese culture in Costa Rica, rather than simply in textbook terms or as articulated in mainland China.

Reflections

As the above sketches illustrate, the rise in global interest in Chinese language and the growth of Chinese-state language initiatives have led to a burgeoning landscape of language instruction in Costa Rica since 2007. Because Costa Ricans increasingly see the economic utility of studying Chinese to enhance their professional cv or to improve business relations, Chinese-language instruction has become a lucrative and thus competitive industry. And although there are fundamental differences in the type of language institute, the curriculum, the pedagogy, and the faculty at the three schools described here, what interests me is how each has attempted to legitimize its identity as a purveyor of Chinese language through different formulations of its own location within the Sinophone. In that sense, they reflect how the Sinophone stands as an open category that views China and Chineseness at an oblique angle in light of place-specific experiences (Shih 2007:34), and thus disrupts ideas of a uniform or a priori form of Chineseness as diaspora in favor of recognizing “Chineseness as a category whose meanings are not fixed and pregiven but constantly renegotiated and rearticulated, both inside and outside China” (Eng 2001:25).

One of the most immediate ways we can see this diversity is through the distinction between public and private language initiatives. This distinction is not simply a technical one, but rather reveals deeper tensions between the Chinese state and the Sinophone. For example, both Kung Tse and aiec seek to ride the coattails of China’s global rise but also distance themselves from what they describe as the propaganda-driven, authoritarian style of ci-style language instruction, which they see as flying in the face of both their own varieties of Chinese identity (based in Taiwan and Guangdong) and their mode of teaching Chinese language (described as dynamic, liberal, student-based, and choice-based). Even Kevin, who acquired his language credentials and cultural capital in Beijing was quick to criticize the Confucius Institute as authoritarian, as opposed to his “student-inspired” initiative that privileged individualized learning styles. And Lin, who reveled in Costa Ricans’ growing curiosity about China, was deeply opposed to what she saw as the propaganda function of the Confucius Institutes and their tendency to impose a model of Chinese language and culture rather than invite Costa Ricans’ curiosity and exchange.

Therefore, these private schools highlight multiple dimensions of geopolitics, including both China’s rise and the “precarious and problematic relation to China” (Shih 2007:30) experienced by differently situated agents within the Sinophone. Both initiatives forefronted their own more fluid, dynamic and student-centered pedagogies, as the best way for prospective students from a liberal, democratic, free-market space like Costa Rica to move and do business in a Chinese world. So interestingly, even though Costa Rican students seemed to view China as a space of modern, global possibilities, Lin and Kevin’s critiques of the Confucius Institutes repositioned the Chinese state itself as a retrograde force, quite separate from the modern, desired China Dream. Both Lin and Kevin saw their bicultural — Chino Tico — backgrounds as offering students a better foundation from which to teach about China, accentuating their unique transnational relations with China as more in tune with Costa Rican sensibilities of individualism, freedom, and unfettered entrepreneurialism, and distant from the Chinese state and any threat it might represent.

That said, these criticisms have not necessarily diminished the legitimacy of the Confucius Institute. Instead, the Chinese state has been able to impose its authority through the Costa Rican legal system, drawing on its proprietary claims to the name of Confucius Institute and its placement within the public university. While that authority originally seemed tenuous in the face of ongoing Mandarin-language instruction within the university’s own foreign-language program, the ci has now ostensibly established itself and legitimized its programs through its emphasis on the use of mainland-born and mainland-raised instructors and growing foreign-scholarship opportunities. For students wanting to foment strategic connections with Chinese universities, to avail themselves of government scholarships, or to acquire forms of putonghua spoken in Beijing, the ci seems to represent the official bridge to China. The fact that the Chinese embassy is increasingly partnering with public and private elementary and high schools in Costa Rica to promote early Chinese-language acquisition (Cerdas 2016a and 2016b, Ross 2013b) is likely to further augment this official connection.

But these language politics go beyond public-private ideological divides to accentuate diversity within the Sinophone, including tensions among groups commonly included under the umbrella of Chineseness. In this case, both Lin and Kevin explicitly marketed their language authority on the basis of distinct linguistic and geographic roots, be they Taiwanese or Cantonese. On the one hand, these tensions reflect global geopolitical tensions, such as those highlighted at the beginning of this paper. Cross-Strait politics or the economic connections between Guangdong and the now retrocessed Hong Kong certainly illustrate fissures within Greater China, as expressed not only through language difference but also press censorship, business prohibitions, and political détente. Nonetheless, they also alert us to the “political and ideological significance of the ongoing currency, as well as the shifting currents, of discourses, claims and disclaims to Chineseness in the modern world” (Eng 2001:39). Contemporary China’s “rise” and the increasing market value of Chineseness globally has thus meant that “[w]hat seems to be at stake here is who has the legitimacy to represent the authentic Chinese language and culture” (Zhu and Li 2014:337). After all, which “brand” of Chineseness one wears has economic consequences in the marketplace, highlighting shifting regimes of value attached to different formulations of Chinese.

On the other hand, these politics illustrate something more profound about the place-based significance of Sinophone locations and experiences and whether and how they invoke Chineseness and in relation to what and whom. Both Lin and Kevin may be understood as diasporic, local-ethnic Chinese, yet they positioned themselves very differently within and in relation to China and the local Chinese Association. Despite her Taiwanese background, Lin had followed a path to the us before returning to Costa Rica, and she saw her North American entrepreneurial background as central to her language-instruction capabilities. Kevin had pursued a path to Beijing to acquire the Chinese language and cultural capital that he could not acquire at home as a member of a Cantonese-speaking diasporic community. Both Lin and Kevin thus sought to highlight their transnational trajectories and authentic Chinese knowledge, but rooted in different transnational routes that alert us to the ongoing importance of tensions within the Sinophone.

In the end, the translation of geopolitics into language-school politics in Costa Rica is not simply a celebratory story about China’s rise or a cautionary tale about a potential China threat but rather an illustration of how the desire to access the global possibilities that China represents by acquiring Chinese language increases the possibilities for local agents to do so from multiple, sometimes contradictory positions of identity and geopolitics. Lin and Kevin’s efforts make visible efforts by agents in the Sinophone to localize their own Chinese identity and to spatialize it in ways that are both strategically connected to and yet also distanced from China. They do so through diverse formulations of what counts as China, Chinese, and Chineseness, as embodied by their own trajectories and identities. As such, they reflect a tension between multiple projections of China and Chinese culture, articulated from different locations within the Sinophone but all hoping to claim the authority not simply to speak Chinese but also to speak for Chinese and Chineseness.

References

  • Alexander, Colin. 2014. China and Taiwan in Central America: Engaging Foreign Publics in Diplomacy. Palgrave MacMillan Series in Global Public Diplomacy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Ang, Ien. 2001. On Not Speaking Chinese: Living Between Asia and the West. London: Routledge.

  • Barmé, Geremie. 2010. “China’s Promise,” The China Beat, January 20. Accessed 4/26/16. http://www.thechinabeat.org/?p=1374.

  • Cerdas, Daniela. 2016a. “Mandarin llega a las aulas de colegios pobres.” La Nación, March 17. Accessed 5/24/17. http://www.nacion.com/nacional/educacion/Mandarin-llega-aulas-colegios-pobres_0_1549045129.html.

  • Cerdas, Daniela. 2016b. “Enseñanza del mandarín se amplía a cuatro colegios más.” La Nación, August 4. Accessed 5/24/17. http://www.nacion.com/nacional/educacion/Ensenanza-mandarin-amplia-colegios_0_1577042294.html.

  • Churchman, Kevin. 2011. “Confucius Institutes and Controlling Chinese Languages.” China Heritage Quarterly, No 26, June. Accessed 4/26/16. http://www.chinaheritagequarterly.org/articles.php?searchterm+026_confucius.inc&issue=026.

  • DeHart, Monica. 2017. “Chino Tico Routes and Repertoires: Cultivating Chineseness and Entrepreneurism for a New era of Trans-Pacific Relations.” Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology. Early View published online April 6, 2017. doi: 10.111/jlca.12273.

  • DeHart, Monica. 2015. “Costa Rica’s Chinatown: The Art of Being Global in the Age of China” City & Society 27(2): 183-207.

  • Ding, Sheng and Robert Saunders. 2006. “Talking Up China: An Analysis of China’s Rising Cultural Power and Global Promotion of the Chinese Language,” East Asia, Summer 23(2): 3-3.

  • Education First. 2015. English Proficiency Index. Accessed 3/13/15. http://www.ef.edu/epi/.

  • Erard, Michael. 2006. “Saying ‘Global’ in Chinese” Foreign Policy, May/June, 45. Accessed 6/23/16. http://foreignpolicy.com/2009/10/19/saying-global-in-chinese/.

  • Furman, Nelly, David Goldberg and Natalia Lusin. 2007. “Enrollments in languages other than English in United States institutions of higher education, Fall 2006,” Modern Language Association Web publication. Accessed 4/26/16. https://apps.mla.org/pdf/06enrollmentsurvey_final.pdf.

  • Gil, Jeffrey. 2011. “A comparison of the global status of English and Chinese: Towards a new global language?” English Today 105, 27(1) March, pp. 52-59.

  • Groppe, Alison. 2013. Sinophone Malaysian Literature: Not Made in China. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press.

  • Guadiano, Nicole. 2014. “House panel investigates ‘Confucius Institutes’” USA Today. December 4. Accessed 4/26/16. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/12/04/house-china-confucius-institutes/19909507/.

  • Hanban. 2017. Official website. Accessed May 26. http://english.hanban.org/node_10971.htm.

  • Hartig, Falk. Chinese Public Diplomacy: The Rise of the Confucius Institute. New York: Routledge.

  • Hubbert, Jennifer. 2014. “Ambiguous States: Confucius Institutes and Soft Power in theus Classroom.” Political and Legal Anthropology Review 37(2): 329-349.

  • Hughes, Christopher. 2014. “Confucius Institutes and the University: Distinguishing the Political Mission from the Cultural,” Issues and Studies 50(4): 45-83.

  • Instituto Confucio. 2017. “Nuestro Instituto.” Official website. Accessed May 23. http://www.institutoconfucio.ucr.ac.cr/.

  • Krupa, Peter. 2007. “New Boost for Booming Trade with China” The Ticotimes News, June 8. Accessed June 23. http://www.ticotimes.net/2007/06/08/new-boost-for-booming-trade-with-china.

  • Kurlantzick, Joshua. 2007. Charm Offensive: How China’s Soft Power Is Transforming the World. Binghamton, NY: Yale University Press.

  • Levin, Matt. 2011. “Do You Speak Mandarin?” The Ticotimes News. Accessed June 23. http://www.ticotimes.net/2011/07/07/do-you-speak-mandarin.

  • Li Wei. 2016. “Transnational Connections and Multilingual Realities” in Li, W. ed. Multilingualism in Chinese Diaspora Worldwide: Transnational Connections and Local Social Realities. Routledge Critical Studies in Multilingualism. New York and London: Routledge Press, pp. 1-12.

  • Lo Bianco, Joseph. 2007. “Emergent China and Chinese: Language Planning Categories” Language Policy 6: 3-26.

  • McDonald, Edward. 2011. “The ‘中国通’ or the Sinophone?” Towards a Political Economy of Chinese Language Learning,” China Heritage Quarterly No 25, March.

  • McKeown, Adam. 2001. Chinese Migrant Networks and Cultural Change: Peru, Chicago, Hawaii 1900-1936. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  • Ma, Laurence J. C. and Carolyn Cartier. 2003. The Chinese Diaspora: Space, Place, Mobility, and Identity. Boulder and New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

  • Odinye, Sunny Ifeanyi and Ifeoma Ezinne Odinye. 2012. “Rise of China and Spread of Mandarin in 21st Century” Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies 1(4): 2224-2716.

  • Ross, Amy. 2013a. “Interés en negocios y cultura acerca a ticos al mandarín.” La Nación, June 3. Accessed May 24, 2017. http://www.nacion.com/nacional/comunidades/Interes-negocios-cultura-acerca-mandarin_0_1345465557.html.

  • Ross, Amy. 2013b. “Mandarin gana terreno en escuelas privadas de Costa Rica.” La Nación, June 3. Accessed May 24, 2017. http://www.nacion.com/nacional/comunidades/Mandarin-escuelas-privadas-Costa-Rica_0_1345465586.html.

  • Sahlins, Marshall. 2015. Academic Malware: Confucius Institutes. Chicago: University of Chicago, Prickly Paradigm Press.

  • Shakya, Tsering. 1994. “Politicization and the Tibetan Language” in Resistance and Reform in Tibet, Robert Barnett and Shirin Akiner, eds. London: C. Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd., pp. 157-165.

  • Shih, Shu-Mei. 2007. Visuality and Identity: Sinophone Articulations across the Pacific. Asia Pacific Modern Series. Berkeley, CA: University Presses of California, Columbia and Princeton.

  • Stambach, Amy. 2014. Confucius and the Crisis in American Universities: Culture, Capital, and Diplomacy in U.S. Public Higher Education. New York: Routledge.

  • Wang, Gungwu. 1993. “Greater China and the Chinese Overseas,” The China Quarterly 136, Special Issue: Greater China (Dec)926-948. Universal de idiomas. 2016. Official website. Accessed January 16. http://www.chino.co.cr/.

  • Xinhuanet. 2016. “Escuelas secundarias públicas de Costa Rica empiezan a impartir clases de Chino,” Hanban official website. Accessed June 26. http://spanish.hanban.org/article/2016-03/29/content_635884.htm.

  • Yeh, Emily. 2013. Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

  • Zhu Hua and Li Wei. 2014. “Geopolitics and the Changing Hierarchies of the Chinese Language: Implications for Policy and Practice of Chinese Language Teaching in Britain.” The Modern Language Journal 91(1): 326-339.

Following standard ethnographic protocol, all research subjects described in this article have been given pseudonyms. Pseudonyms are Anglicized, Sinicized, or Hispanicized to reflect the research subject’s self-identification.

The Chinese state inaugurated its first official Confucius Institute in Seoul, Korea, in 2004, after a brief pilot program in Uzbekistan that same year (Hanban 2017).

The physical address for the school is formally listed as “Antigua embajada China, Zapote.”

For more robust studies of Chinese classroom dynamics and student perspectives, see Hartig 2015, Hubbert 2014, Stambach 2014, and Zhu and Li 2014.

See Churchman 2011 on the production of texts in traditional script that are banned in mainland China.

Indeed, over the last decade, Costa Rica’s bilingual capabilities in English and Spanish made it a prime site for call centers for Amazon as well as production plants for Boston Scientific and Cargill.

“Tico” is short-hand vernacular for “Costa Rican.”

More heavily subsidized classes for younger community members were made available through the Centro Educativo y Cultural Chino-Costariccense (Chinese-Costa Rican Education and Cultural Center), a community organization, supported by the Chinese embassy.

Speaking with a dialect from Spain mattered here, as Lin and Kevin would criticize the ci instructors for their lack of knowledge of the Spanish language or of local dialect or of both, thus highlighting the value of the “insider,” “local” knowledge that each of them, as Chinese Costa Ricans, could offer their own students.

One of the debates surrounding cis is whether Chinese-language instruction ultimately serves as a propaganda machine for the Chinese state (Hubbert 2014, Sahlins 2015). In my own observations at the ucr ci, I saw nothing in the classroom pedagogy that indicated any ideological agenda. For more systematic studies of Confucius Classroom instruction, see Hartig 2015, Hubbert 2014, Stambach 2014, and Zhu and Li 2015.

Sections

References

Alexander, Colin. 2014. China and Taiwan in Central America: Engaging Foreign Publics in Diplomacy. Palgrave MacMillan Series in Global Public Diplomacy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ang, Ien. 2001. On Not Speaking Chinese: Living Between Asia and the West. London: Routledge.

Barmé, Geremie. 2010. “China’s Promise,” The China Beat, January 20. Accessed 4/26/16. http://www.thechinabeat.org/?p=1374.

Cerdas, Daniela. 2016a. “Mandarin llega a las aulas de colegios pobres.” La Nación, March 17. Accessed 5/24/17. http://www.nacion.com/nacional/educacion/Mandarin-llega-aulas-colegios-pobres_0_1549045129.html.

Cerdas, Daniela. 2016b. “Enseñanza del mandarín se amplía a cuatro colegios más.” La Nación, August 4. Accessed 5/24/17. http://www.nacion.com/nacional/educacion/Ensenanza-mandarin-amplia-colegios_0_1577042294.html.

Churchman, Kevin. 2011. “Confucius Institutes and Controlling Chinese Languages.” China Heritage Quarterly, No 26, June. Accessed 4/26/16. http://www.chinaheritagequarterly.org/articles.php?searchterm+026_confucius.inc&issue=026.

DeHart, Monica. 2017. “Chino Tico Routes and Repertoires: Cultivating Chineseness and Entrepreneurism for a New era of Trans-Pacific Relations.” Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology. Early View published online April 6, 2017. doi: 10.111/jlca.12273.

DeHart, Monica. 2015. “Costa Rica’s Chinatown: The Art of Being Global in the Age of China” City & Society 27(2): 183-207.

Ding, Sheng and Robert Saunders. 2006. “Talking Up China: An Analysis of China’s Rising Cultural Power and Global Promotion of the Chinese Language,” East Asia, Summer 23(2): 3-3.

Education First. 2015. English Proficiency Index. Accessed 3/13/15. http://www.ef.edu/epi/.

Erard, Michael. 2006. “Saying ‘Global’ in Chinese” Foreign Policy, May/June, 45. Accessed 6/23/16. http://foreignpolicy.com/2009/10/19/saying-global-in-chinese/.

Furman, Nelly, David Goldberg and Natalia Lusin. 2007. “Enrollments in languages other than English in United States institutions of higher education, Fall 2006,” Modern Language Association Web publication. Accessed 4/26/16. https://apps.mla.org/pdf/06enrollmentsurvey_final.pdf.

Gil, Jeffrey. 2011. “A comparison of the global status of English and Chinese: Towards a new global language?” English Today 105, 27(1) March, pp. 52-59.

Groppe, Alison. 2013. Sinophone Malaysian Literature: Not Made in China. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press.

Guadiano, Nicole. 2014. “House panel investigates ‘Confucius Institutes’” USA Today. December 4. Accessed 4/26/16. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/12/04/house-china-confucius-institutes/19909507/.

Hanban. 2017. Official website. Accessed May 26. http://english.hanban.org/node_10971.htm.

Hartig, Falk. Chinese Public Diplomacy: The Rise of the Confucius Institute. New York: Routledge.

Hubbert, Jennifer. 2014. “Ambiguous States: Confucius Institutes and Soft Power in theus Classroom.” Political and Legal Anthropology Review 37(2): 329-349.

Hughes, Christopher. 2014. “Confucius Institutes and the University: Distinguishing the Political Mission from the Cultural,” Issues and Studies 50(4): 45-83.

Instituto Confucio. 2017. “Nuestro Instituto.” Official website. Accessed May 23. http://www.institutoconfucio.ucr.ac.cr/.

Krupa, Peter. 2007. “New Boost for Booming Trade with China” The Ticotimes News, June 8. Accessed June 23. http://www.ticotimes.net/2007/06/08/new-boost-for-booming-trade-with-china.

Kurlantzick, Joshua. 2007. Charm Offensive: How China’s Soft Power Is Transforming the World. Binghamton, NY: Yale University Press.

Levin, Matt. 2011. “Do You Speak Mandarin?” The Ticotimes News. Accessed June 23. http://www.ticotimes.net/2011/07/07/do-you-speak-mandarin.

Li Wei. 2016. “Transnational Connections and Multilingual Realities” in Li, W. ed. Multilingualism in Chinese Diaspora Worldwide: Transnational Connections and Local Social Realities. Routledge Critical Studies in Multilingualism. New York and London: Routledge Press, pp. 1-12.

Lo Bianco, Joseph. 2007. “Emergent China and Chinese: Language Planning Categories” Language Policy 6: 3-26.

McDonald, Edward. 2011. “The ‘中国通’ or the Sinophone?” Towards a Political Economy of Chinese Language Learning,” China Heritage Quarterly No 25, March.

McKeown, Adam. 2001. Chinese Migrant Networks and Cultural Change: Peru, Chicago, Hawaii 1900-1936. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Ma, Laurence J. C. and Carolyn Cartier. 2003. The Chinese Diaspora: Space, Place, Mobility, and Identity. Boulder and New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Odinye, Sunny Ifeanyi and Ifeoma Ezinne Odinye. 2012. “Rise of China and Spread of Mandarin in 21st Century” Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies 1(4): 2224-2716.

Ross, Amy. 2013a. “Interés en negocios y cultura acerca a ticos al mandarín.” La Nación, June 3. Accessed May 24, 2017. http://www.nacion.com/nacional/comunidades/Interes-negocios-cultura-acerca-mandarin_0_1345465557.html.

Ross, Amy. 2013b. “Mandarin gana terreno en escuelas privadas de Costa Rica.” La Nación, June 3. Accessed May 24, 2017. http://www.nacion.com/nacional/comunidades/Mandarin-escuelas-privadas-Costa-Rica_0_1345465586.html.

Sahlins, Marshall. 2015. Academic Malware: Confucius Institutes. Chicago: University of Chicago, Prickly Paradigm Press.

Shakya, Tsering. 1994. “Politicization and the Tibetan Language” in Resistance and Reform in Tibet, Robert Barnett and Shirin Akiner, eds. London: C. Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd., pp. 157-165.

Shih, Shu-Mei. 2007. Visuality and Identity: Sinophone Articulations across the Pacific. Asia Pacific Modern Series. Berkeley, CA: University Presses of California, Columbia and Princeton.

Stambach, Amy. 2014. Confucius and the Crisis in American Universities: Culture, Capital, and Diplomacy in U.S. Public Higher Education. New York: Routledge.

Wang, Gungwu. 1993. “Greater China and the Chinese Overseas,” The China Quarterly 136, Special Issue: Greater China (Dec)926-948. Universal de idiomas. 2016. Official website. Accessed January 16. http://www.chino.co.cr/.

Xinhuanet. 2016. “Escuelas secundarias públicas de Costa Rica empiezan a impartir clases de Chino,” Hanban official website. Accessed June 26. http://spanish.hanban.org/article/2016-03/29/content_635884.htm.

Yeh, Emily. 2013. Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Zhu Hua and Li Wei. 2014. “Geopolitics and the Changing Hierarchies of the Chinese Language: Implications for Policy and Practice of Chinese Language Teaching in Britain.” The Modern Language Journal 91(1): 326-339.

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