Xu Lin

Director, Confucius Institutes | China

For leading China’s embattled soft-power venture.

Xu Lin has had much to be proud of during her 10-year term heading up her country’s huge Chinese-language soft-power initiative. Since the first Confucius Institute opened in 2004, under Xu’s tenure more than 400 of the Chinese government-funded institutes have opened in over 100 countries, providing low-cost Chinese language and cultural programs for high school and university students around the world. One hundred of them are located in the United States, according to the Confucius Institute’s own statistics. Yet some Western academics have increasingly argued that Confucius Institutes infringe upon academic freedom at universities. Xu’s reputation as a hard-line ideologue helped get the Confucius Institute at the University of Chicago suspended in September.