China plans to establish 500 "Confucius Institutes" around the world. They already have 12 institutes at U.S. universities and have even established one in the Chicago public school system. The institutes appear to be modeled after l'Alliance Francaise, the Cervantes Institute, the British Council, the Goethe Institute, etc. with language-training as their lead offering. But the Confucius Institute's charter is even broader, including access to Chinese movies and media, meetings with Chinese officials, organized tours, etc. Wired magazine did a story on the initiative last year.
It's interesting that the Chinese named their new public diplomacy effort after the ancient philosopher since that country has been trying to squelch Confucianism since the time of Mao. Their research probably told them that Confucius is widely known and respected outside China and has no overt political connotations.
Wouldn't it make sense for the U.S. to establish similar institute's around the world, funded by the State Department and run by local partners such as universities or other civic entities? Taking a lead from the Chinese (and Spanish), they could be called Franklin Centers. After all, Benjamin Franklin was the American equivalent of Confucius, known and respected around the world. He even produced his own book of aphorisms.