When Confucius Institutes (CIs) appeared on the continent in 2005 there had already been initiatives and plans by China for the teaching of Chinese in both East and West Africa. For instance, Chinese teachers had been active in many African countries in the 1970s. The major initiative to teach Chinese in Africa was in the modern foreign languages' department of the University of Stellenbosch. The CIs, as an example of cultural diplomacy, are somewhat different from comparator institutions to be found in Africa, such as the British Council, the Goethe Institute and the Alliance Francaise. The CIs provide a fertile ground for international, cross-national, comparative research. Several different disciplines including history, applied linguistics, education, art and international relations could contribute to this. A reason for the lack of criticism of the CIs in Africa is that the institutes arguably engage in a certain degree of self-censorship.