Federally Funded Cultural Institutions Partner With Chinese Embassy

Smithsonian Institution and Kennedy Center are hosting Lunar New Year events with embassy

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
January 31, 2022

The federally funded Smithsonian Institution and Kennedy Center are hosting events with the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., amid growing tensions between the United States and China.

The events will commemorate the Chinese Lunar New Year, according to the Smithsonian and Kennedy Center websites. The Smithsonian American Art Museum is hosting an online event on Feb. 5 in partnership with the embassy. The Kennedy Center is hosting a lantern ceremony with the embassy. The Smithsonian is a public-private partnership that receives two-thirds of its budget from the federal government. Its board of regents is made up of Vice President Kamala Harris, Chief Justice John Roberts, and other federal officials. The Kennedy Center is a nonprofit but receives more than $50 million a year from Congress for repairs and improvement projects.

Both the Smithsonian and Kennedy Center have hosted events with the Chinese embassy in the past, but this year’s events are the first to be held since the Biden administration accused Beijing of carrying out genocide against Uyghurs. The Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Beijing Olympics last month. Chinese ambassador Qin Gang warned the United States last week of potential "military conflict" if Washington supports democracy in Taiwan. Qin also denied China is committing genocide against Uyghurs, calling the allegation one of the "big lies of the century."

The embassy has used the Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in many Asian countries, to promote the Olympics. The embassy partnered with state-owned China Global Television Network earlier this month to promote both the Lunar New Year and Olympics at a Washington Capitals game. The Chinese consulate in New York City hired a public relations firm last month to recruit social media influencers to promote the Olympics and produce content for the consulate.

Human rights groups have pressured sponsors of the Olympics to pull out of the games over China’s human rights record. Journalists and athletes have also raised concerns that Chinese authorities are requiring them to use phone apps that will track their health and travel data.

A spokesman for the Kennedy Center said the Chinese embassy does not provide monetary support for the event.

"This event, as with all of our international programs, is not about politics, but about sharing art across cultures and highlighting the diverse cultural celebrations held across our nation—and we work regularly with the embassies of many countries to this end," said Brendan Padgett, a spokesman for the Kennedy Center.

The Smithsonian did not respond to requests for comment.