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Chinese Piracy and Confucius

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on July 11, 2007

You know the piracy situation is bad in China if even the Confucius Institute is implicated in unauthorized copying. Josh Gartner, a 27-year-old from Brooklyn who runs ChinaExpat, a Beijing-based website for foreigners, alleges that the Institute – a non-profit in the Chinese capital dedicated to promoting the study of the Chinese language worldwide – has lifted dozens of his site’s articles without permission. Gartner has written about this on his blog.

“The Confucius Institute Online is stealing China Expat’s content. That’s right, the Beijing-based institute with millions of dollars of resouces has been taking articles from, an upstart website with no revenue dedicated to promoting Chinese culture and tourism. They have been stealing original writing in its entirety and passing it off as their own original content. In total more than four dozen (!) of our articles appear on their site and I could only find one time that they gave us credit.”

I rang Gartner today and asked him why he is making a big deal of this. Theft like this is pretty common in China. I’ve had stories stolen and I bet lots of other journalists have too. What’s happened to China Expat is on a different scale, says Gartner, who was taken aback by the “very significant” extent of the alleged theft. “All the content of the entire site is taken and put up as their own,” he says. And besides, it’s an institute named after Confucius! “You are not usually surprised when you see it from small organizations,” says Gartner. “But the Confucius Institute, you would expect more oversight.”

I also called the Confucius Institute for a comment and spoke with a Miss Bai. (When I asked for her full name, she told me “that’s not important.”) What does the Institute say about Gartner’s allegations? “We don’t know if it’s true or not. We need time to look into this.”

Reader Comments


July 11, 2007 5:19 PM

There is a huge culture and ethics gap between Western academics and Chinese counterpart. US and western scholars are educated and brought up with knowledge of IP law, copyright and aversion of plagiarism. There are none such framework for such practices, at least when I came to US for higher education in 1992. I took me quite some time to know and respect the rules like quoting the sources and authors etc. I think China is gradually realizing these issues after pressure from US and pressure to comply with globalization rules.

I am a Chinese. Unfortunately, these behaviors are not good. To be frank, it is THEFT or plagiarism. China needs to improve the framework to enforce and educate her do things like rest of global clubs. PERIOD.


July 11, 2007 9:30 PM

Once you put content up on the internet it's fair game. If you want people not to steal it then put it in a book. It's the WORLD WIDE web because it's for all of us. Who cares if someone takes it.


July 12, 2007 12:18 AM

China's constant theft reeks of a feeling of superiority that is crushed daily by the knowledge and wealth of the west. They have always considered us "barbarians" yet it is our money, technology and expertise that has brought their country out of the stone age and they feel it is their rightful place as the continuing guardians of heaven to take whatever they want from us.


July 12, 2007 9:54 PM

Isn't that view about 200 years out of date? Barbarians? I wouldn't phrase it like that. Anyway, didn't the West pretty much steal HK, Macau, and Chinese national pride for a while?


July 15, 2007 4:54 AM

We are extremely sorry for our infelicitous act. We have offered China Expat a frank apology for the use of China Expat's articles without their permission. We have now removed all of the articles that you cited from our webpage.

The Confucius Institute Online website is still in its testing phase. At this stage of its development we regret any mistakes that we have made.

We have disciplined all staff involved with the mistakenly used content. The person who was primarily responsible for mistakenly using your articles is no longer working with us.

Please accept our sincere apologies.


Confucius Institute online


May 4, 2009 10:26 AM

Li Kang Zi ask confucius opinion about dangerous thief. Confucius appreciated and says, 'Untouchable thief was
unemotional people, This kind of thief was a counterfeiter, 'Although allow people enjoy the beauty/ benefit but never alow
people to conterfeit'.

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