Republican senators are urging President Joe Biden to implement a proposed rule that would require U.S. academic institutions to disclose their financial relationships with Chinese Communist Party-funded Confucius Institutes.
The Trump administration raised public awareness of the threat from the CCP-funded Confucius Institutes, which are housed on U.S. campuses all around the country and teach Chinese culture and language. In addition to the institutes banning topics that are politically-sensitive to China, they are a suspected part of China’s influence and espionage operations in the U.S.
GOP Sens. Rob Portman (OH). Mitt Romney (UT). Marco Rubio (FL), and Chuck Grassley (IA) urged Biden in a letter on Tuesday to implement the rule, which was proposed by the former Trump administration. Their push follows a similar one by House Republicans.
The senators wrote:
We have significant concerns regarding the CCP’s nefarious actions and urge you to follow through on your commitments to advancing the interests of the American people as we collectively respond to the challenge that the CCP poses. We believe it is critically important to better understand and reduce the CCP’s influence on the American people, including through the Hanban, its propaganda arm that runs Confucius Institutes through the [People’s Republic of China] Ministry of Education. The proposed rule is a necessary step in that effort and would bring needed transparency to Confucius Institutes.
The senators wrote that they have repeatedly conducted oversight of the “problematic presence of Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms in American campuses.”
“Such oversight uncovered serious concerns about academic freedom and the CCP’s long-term goal to exert political influence over U.S. elites through our education system,” they wrote.
Former President Donald Trump submitted the proposed rule to the Department of Homeland Security on December 31, 2020, to require universities to reveal their financial ties with Confucius Institutes, but the Biden administration rescinded that rule within a week after taking office.
Human Rights Watch cautioned in a 2019 report that,”Confucius Institutes are extensions of the Chinese government that censor certain topics and perspectives in course materials on political grounds, and use hiring practices that take political loyalty into consideration,” according to the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) first sounded the alarm over the Biden administration’s rescinding of the proposed rule, which had come too late in the Trump administration to be finalized.
“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,” he wrote.
“It’s all the more disturbing because the education industry already fails to report billions of dollars of foreign gifts and contracts. 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.”