Lawmakers Concerned as Biden Quietly Reverses Trump-era Rule on Confucius Institutes

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The Confucius Institute is an important part of China's overseas soft propaganda setup.
The Confucius Institute is an important part of China's overseas soft propaganda setup. (Image:Kreeder13, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Former President Trump had issued a proposed policy requiring U.S. schools to disclose their “Confucius Institute” partnerships. However, on Jan. 26, just days after his inauguration, President Joe Biden quietly rescinded the proposal, which aimed to prevent the Chinese Communist Party from infiltrating the United States through its Confucius Institutes.

Before leaving office, the Trump administration attempted to enact a policy that would compel U.S. elementary and secondary schools and higher education institutions to disclose all contracts and transactions with Confucius Institutes. Under the policy, schools that did not truthfully report information would lose their accreditation related to exchange visit programs and students.

Reversing course

According to a report by Campus Reform, President Biden quietly reversed the policy within a week of his inauguration.

According to records from the Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs, Biden rescinded the policy on Jan. 26, the newspaper said. A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also confirmed in an email to The Epoch Times that the policy had been rescinded. 

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden lectures at Sichuan University during his visit to China on August 21, 2011, in Chengdu, Sichuan Province of China. (Image: Getty Images)

Seth Cropsey, director of the U.S. Center for Seapower at the Hudson Institute, a U.S. think tank, said he hoped the Biden administration was not trying to “placate China.”

He expressed hope that the Biden administration is not trying to “make overtures… that make it sound as though the United States is unaware or uninterested in their military buildup, their aggression against neighbors, their militarization of the South China Sea, and their successful efforts to steal intellectual property.”

Talking about the Confucius Institutes, Cropsey remarked that it is “not normal practice, and for good reason — namely, academic independence and freedom — to allow an outside organization… to say nothing of a country that is a strategic competitor to the United States, to be able to choose professors in a program… within a university.” 

In August, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially declared Confucius Institutes a “foreign mission” of the People’s Republic of China. He emphasized the need to ensure that American students learn Chinese language and culture without the manipulation of the Chinese Communist Party.

Before last year’s presidential election, Pompeo said in October that he was asking U.S. high schools, universities, and K-12 educational institutions to close down their Confucius Institutes.

Promoting the Communist Party in the name of Confucius

Pompeo said that the Confucius Institute is “an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign on U.S. campuses and K-12 classrooms.” It should be “closed out.” 

After the Biden administration withdrew Trump’s policy restricting Confucius Institutes, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Confucius Institutes, which are funded and staffed by the Chinese Ministry of Education, are the CCP’s threat to the U.S. education system.

Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered remarks on the China challenge to U.S. national security and academic freedom at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (Image: Department of State/Public Domain)

“By quietly backing away from the proposed rule without consulting Congress, the Biden administration is sending a concerning signal about its scrutiny of CCP influence in academia, and telling academic institutions that they don’t need to be transparent about their ties to China’s regime,” McCaul said. 

“I strongly urge the Biden Administration to stick to its promises to prioritize the CCP as our main national security challenge, including in the American education system.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted that the FBI had warned about the Party’s use of Confucius Institutes to “infiltrate American schools” and inculcate students with the CCP’s ideology. 

“But now Biden quietly withdrawn rule proposed by Trump admin to require schools & universities to disclose their partnerships with these agents of Chinese govt [sic] influence,” wrote Rubio. 

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  • Born and raised in China, Lucy Crawford has been living in Canada for over 20 years. She has great sympathy for Chinese and human suffering in general. With a Master's degree in Education and having worked on various professions, she now translates and writes about stories in ancient and modern China. She lives in Calgary with her husband and four children.