U.S. Senate Report Blasts Confucius Institute's Presence on College Campuses

The U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has issued a scathing new report on the Confucius Institute, a Chinese government-funded organization that operates Chinese cultural and language learning centers on more than 100 college campuses nationwide.

While the centers have been billed as facilitators of cultural enrichment, the bipartisan report warns that they’re little more than propaganda outlets that restrict academic freedom while attempting to reshape China’s image abroad.

“Through Confucius Institutes, the Chinese government is attempting to change the impression in the United States and around the world that China is an economic and security threat,” according to the report’s executive summary. “Confucius Institutes’ soft power encourages complacency towards China’s pervasive, long-term initiatives against both government critics at home and businesses and academic institutions abroad. Those long-term initiatives include its Made in China 2025 plan, a push to lead the world in certain advanced technology manufacturing. The Thousand Talents program is another state-run initiative designed to recruit Chinese researchers in the United States to return to China for significant financial gain—bringing with them the knowledge gained at U.S. universities and companies.”

The report also raises concerns that the institute could be used as a tool for espionage. It criticizes universities for a lack of transparency about funding they’ve received from China, which it says has spent more than $158 million on U.S. schools over the past 13 years.

According to the report, Chinese-funded school programs are a growing phenomenon at K-12 institutions as well. It calls on the U.S. State Department and the Department of Justice to further investigate the matter and recommends additional oversight from Congress and the U.S. Department of Education.

Then comes the real kicker from Subcommittee Chair Rob Portman (R-Ohio):

“Absent full transparency regarding how Confucius Institutes operate and full reciprocity for U.S. cultural outreach efforts on college campuses in China, Confucius Institutes should not continue in the United States.”

Many of the report’s findings are contradicted by a recent GAO review which found no glaring problems with transparency or academic freedom. The Confucius Institute, meanwhile, has downplayed the role of the Chinese government in its educational programs, telling the Los Angeles Times that it “is not controlled by China, but is controlled by American universities and is part of American universities.”

Read more at Politico.


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