Revealing China’s Hegemonic Project in Thailand: How the Confucius Institute Furthers the Chinese State’s International Ambitions




Auethavornpipat, Ruji

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This thesis examines the operations of the Confucius Institute in contemporary Thailand. By the end of 2012, there were already 400 Confucius Institutes around the world, 13 of which are in Thailand. It took the Confucius Institute less than a decade to rapidly expand around the globe. Despite its putative neutral objective of promoting Chinese culture and language globally, this thesis argues that the Institute is closely affiliated with the Chinese government, and is in fact part of the Chinese government’s broader hegemonic project. I define hegemony as dominance that rests on generally based consent and is established by social forces occupying a dominant role within a state that are projected outward on a world scale. I look at three aspects of hegemony: the negotiation of norms, the conferring of common interests and mutual benefits to members, and the lived social experience through selective and dominant cultural symbols. This thesis presents empirical data that was collected during three months of field research in Thailand in 2012. It shows that the Confucius Institute attempts to create a norm of international harmony which has its roots in the Chinese government’s domestic policy to construct a harmonious society by 2020. Furthermore, this thesis illustrates that students and people who are involved with the Confucius Institute perceive their participation as resulting in mutual benefits that are “real.” Their perceptions are related to international policies that show Thailand as benefiting by subordinating to China’s political and economic dominance. Lastly, cultural public events organized by the Confucius Institute demonstrate how hegemony is a lived social experience for participants.



Hegemony, Soft Power, Chinese Culture, Thailand, Confucius Institute