Report: Elite German University Accused of ‘Serving’ Chinese Communist Regime

The Chinese national flag is seen on a flagpole in Beijing on August 8, 2016. - Most of the five stars on the Chinese flags being used at medal ceremonies at the Rio Olympics are misaligned, officials said, prompting a diplomatic protest and online fury. (Photo by STR / AFP) …
STR/AFP via Getty Images

The Freie Universität Berlin (FU), one of Germany’s most elite universities, has been accused of engaging in a special relationship with a Chinese state university and closely cooperating with Beijing, a German newspaper reports.

The Berlin university, founded in West Berlin in the early days of the Cold War, has maintained a close relationship with Beijing-based Peking University (PKU) and has engaged with the Chinese institution on a number of projects, including the founding of a branch of the Confucius Institute in 2006, the first in Germany.

The Confucious Institute has partnered with academic institutions across the West, including in the United States, but has come under scrutiny in recent months with Republican Party lawmakers in the U.S. announcing a probe into the institute’s American activities earlier this month.

Sweden, meanwhile, shut down its last remaining Confucious Institute branch in April, mainly over a dispute involving Swedish citizen Gui Minhai who had published books speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

According to claims made in a report by German newspaper Die Welt, the Freie Universität Berlin has been involved with several projects with Peking University, despite an internal note acquired by the paper which lists PKU as a “problematic partner” due to expulsions of students critical of the communist regime.

One of the joint projects is a Chinese translation of the Historical-Critical Dictionary of Marxism, which China expert Sebastian Heilmann of the University of Trier claims is “problematic” due to censorship in China.

“Marxism research in China has nothing to do with autonomous, critical science,” he said.

FU Vice President Klaus Mühlhahn is also said by the report to have long-standing connections to the Chinese regime and is said to frequently give interviews to Chinese state-run media.

Mühlhahn also worked for the Finiens consulting firm based in Berlin which is said to specialise in China, and gave a lecture on “nation branding”, or how states can improve their image abroad.

Mühlhahn insisted that he had not taken money from the firm and was interested in “better understanding between the two countries in his field”.

The claims in Germany follow others made over the weekend in the United Kingdom, as reported in The Express newspaper which reported a political row over the relationship between an advisor to Labour lead Sir Keir Starmer — Dean of Durham University Professor Thom Brooks — and the China Global Television Network (CGTN).

The paper reported Professor Brooks had written several articles for the Chinese government-controlled state broadcaster, mainly about British politics but also criticising U.S. President Donald Trump.

China’s infiltration of universities has also led to allegations in November 2019 from London School of Economics (LSE) Professor Christopher Hughes that “Chinese Confucius Institute officials confiscat[ed] papers which mention Taiwan at an academic conference”.

Another report from December of last year also claimed that the Chinese army had used various groups to infiltrate universities in the UK, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.


Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.