China exerts soft power in Finland

Finland is currently home to two Chinese state-funded organisations that promote the Chinese language and culture. Some say these are a clever way for Beijing to build influence in Finland.

At Helsinki’s Confucius Institute, Chinese courses fill up quickly as some 200 students enroll in free language classes.

The growth of Confucius Institutes around Europe concerns those who monitor Chinese efforts to exert influence. The institute was established at Helsinki University four years ago despite opposition to Chinese funding.

The Chinese state funds half of the institute’s staff of six. In addition to language, courses also cover Chinese culture and society. But politics are not on the agenda, insists the institute’s vice director, Li Yuanzheng.

Voice of China

In Tampere, a team of 60 works at the Chinese-funded Radio86 to produce news about China in 14 languages.

Henrik Resman from Radio86 says that the organisation is not only seeking a strong foothold in Europe, but also in the Middle East and Africa. He explains that he hopes to be active in 20 to 30 countries.

Radio86 publishes news critical of China — but only after others have reported it. Experts say China’s promotion efforts are strategic.

Soft power extended via education and media is a subtle yet effective way of exerting influence on young people, says Teija Tiilikainen, director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

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