U.S. Lawmakers Put the Squeeze on Confucius Institutes

American Senator Marco Rubio has been a long-term supporter for human rights in China. (Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr/CC BY 2.0)
American Senator Marco Rubio has been a long-term supporter for human rights in China. (Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Three U.S. lawmakers have introduced a law aimed at pressuring Chinese state-run Confucius Institutes operating in American education institutions over concerns that they’re pushing propaganda.

U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton, along with Congressman Joe Wilson, who are all Republican, introduced the Foreign Influence Transparency Act on March 22.

In a statement, the GOP lawmakers said the act will require organizations, such as Confucius Institutes, to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. They said that the legislation likewise amends the Higher Education Act, which will now require universities to divulge donations, contracts, or gifts from any foreign source if the amount is $50,000 or greater.

“This legislation aims to bring greater transparency to the activities of foreign governments operating in the United States,” said Senator Rubio, who went on to highlight the Chinese state-run Confucius Institutes that have been established in 100 American higher education institutions, including several in his home state of Florida.

Senator Cotton stressed the legislation is needed to help protect democracy in America’s education system. “If we want there to be free speech and honest debate on our college campuses, then we need more transparency around other countries’ efforts to push their interests on U.S. soil,” said Senator Cotton.

“Requiring organizations like Confucius Institutes to register their activities with the Justice Department and disclose where they get their money is necessary to alert college students to the malign influence of foreign propaganda,” he said.

Congressman Wilson added that the goal of this legislation is to increase transparency between foreign governments, universities, and communities. “The American people have the right to know if they are consuming propaganda that is being produced by a foreign government,” said the congressman.

See a former Canadian security intelligence service senior officer describe how Confucius Institutes are a threat in a scene from the documentary In the Name of Confucius:

Last month, according to The Hill, Senator Rubio sent letters to five Florida schools warning them about Confucius Institutes and calling on the schools to terminate their involvement with the program.

“Given China’s aggressive campaign to ‘infiltrate’ American classrooms, stifle free inquiry, and subvert free expression both at home and abroad, I respectfully urge you to consider terminating your Confucius Institute agreement,” wrote Senator Rubio in the letter sent to the schools.

Confucius Institutes have long been controversial because of their links with the Chinese communist government and Senator Rubio, in his letter, noted that a number of education institutions have already cut their ties with the program. He likewise emphasized why they’re a problem in a free society.

“[Confucius Institutes] are overseen by a branch of the Chinese Ministry of Education, and are instructed to only teach versions of Chinese history, culture, or current events that are explicitly approved by the Chinese Government and Communist Party,” Senator Rubio wrote.

“We know from multiple reports that topics, such as the status of Tibet and Taiwan, the fourth of June 1989 at Tiananmen Square, Falun Gong, and universal human rights, are off-limits at these institutes,” he wrote.

The move by the three U.S. lawmakers comes amid growing concern about the Chinese state’s foreign influence operations occurring not only in America, but in other nations, such as Australia and New Zealand.

For more on Beijing’s growing influence on the West and its politics, watch this recent episode of China Uncensored:

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