In a small room at the University of South Florida, Maya Ueda and two classmates prepare for a Mandarin exam. A pot of green tea idles nearby, and Chinese folk instruments, games, and movies fill the cabinets and bookcases.


Although the students are doing their work at a state school on Florida's Gulf Coast, the center they are studying in is part of a global outreach by the government of China called the Confucius Institute. The cultural and language centers have sprung up around the world, hosted at universities eager to boost their Mandarin offerings as China's economic influence grows.


The Confucius...

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