China builds at least 60 public diplomacy outposts in US while permitting 4 US centers in China

China: 60, US: 0

Nicholas Kralev reports at The Washington Times that Congress is expressing its concern at the disparity between the number of cultural centers China and the US have permitted in each others countries. While China has setup 60 in the US, it is currently permitting only four to be built. At present, there are no such US centers in China.

According to Nicholas, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) raised this imbalance with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in February.

Mr. Lugar suggested that the administration is resigned to the restrictions, noting that its 2011 budget request has asked for funds for just "eight to 10 American centers of public diplomacy" around the world, but "it's not clear where those would be located."

Mrs. Clinton responded that the administration is "raising the issue of reciprocity with Chinese officials," though she made clear a change in the numbers is unlikely anytime soon.

"On the Confucius centers, the Chinese government provides each center with $1 million to launch, plus they cover operating expenses that exceed $200,000 per year," she said. "We don't have that kind of money in the budget, so we are limited in the numbers that we can do."

The State Department official said the administration has asked for $14.5 million to open public diplomacy centers, but no decisions have been made about where they will be located or how many of them will be in China. He acknowledged that part of their mission will be to help explain and promote U.S. policies, though he used the phrase "engaging with foreign publics."

While the actual startup funding and annual support the Confucius Centers receives may be debated in the article, there is a clear plan of engagement by the Chinese government, most of it indirect to build understanding the learning.

The article quotes Deng Cheng, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, who notes the underlying view of public diplomacy and its relationship to diplomacy with regard to China:

There is an asymmetry between U.S. and Chinese funding because Beijing is better at "putting its money where its mouth is," Mr. Cheng said.

"What are our priorities? There will be a number of opportunities for President Obama to raise the issue with President Hu [Jintao] next week" during the global nuclear security summit Mr. Obama is hosting, Mr. Cheng said.

However, he expressed doubt the administration will risk new tensions with China, given its decision to delay a report on its currency policies not to anger Mr. Hu before his trip to Washington. U.S. officials have long called on Beijing to stop artificially keeping the yuan's value down, which has been good for Chinese exports but bad for American imports.

"We have to push for greater access for our public diplomacy centers, and that requires resolve and negotiating," Mr. Cheng said.

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