NYT Column Calls on Government to ‘Stop Vilifying China’s Confucius Institutes’

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A New York Times columnist wrote an op-ed calling on the federal government to “stop vilifying China’s Confucius Institutes,” an idea applauded on social media by a member of the Chinese state media.

“The U.S. government should stop vilifying China’s Confucius Institutes as sinister propaganda machines,” wrote Ian Johnson in a New York Times op-ed, titled, “Mr. Biden, Enough With the Tough Talk on China.”

Johnson argued that the Biden administration should offer to restart the Peace Corps and Fulbright scholarship programs in China, in exchange for the U.S. to stop “vilifying” Confucius Institutes “as sinister propaganda machines.”

“These are largely cultural centers and much like educational outposts from other countries trying to push a good image of themselves,” Johnson insisted.

“American universities should prevent Confucius Institutes from offering accredited courses — no university should allow a foreign government to set its curriculum — but the centers should be able to function off campus, much like Germany’s Goethe Institutes or British Councils do,” he added.

U.S. lawmakers, however, are increasingly characterizing Confucius Institutes as outposts for Chinese government propaganda. And under the Trump administration, the Confucius Institute U.S. Center was designated as a foreign mission, and being a part of the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda machine.

“Good article,” responded Chen Weihua of China Daily, which is media affiliated with the communist regime.

“Biden admin reversed many Trump policies such as on WHO, Paris accord and immigration, there is no excuse to ignore the no-brainers such as restoring bilateral exchanges, Confucius Institute, press visa, ending Trump’s tariff, tech wars,” Weihua added. “Why playing lose lose game?”

In a bizarre twist, Johnson acknowledged the issue, and agreed that Confucius Institutes are “dedicated to spreading CCP propaganda,” telling Campus Reform that “that is why I said in my op-ed that they should not offer accredited courses on campus.”

Thus, Johnson is apparently suggesting that centers dedicated to spreading Chinese Communist propaganda should be able to function in the United States, provided that the propaganda doesn’t count toward an accredited degree.

An increasing number of universities across the country have shut down their Confucius Institutes in recent years.

Last year, the University of Missouri (Mizzou) announced it was closing its Confucius Institute after the U.S. Department of State notified the school that it is no longer allowed to have Chinese instructors teaching Mandarin without the supervision of a Chinese-speaking American.

The year prior, the University of Delaware announced its plan to end its ten-year partnership with the Confucius Institute. And in 2018, Texas A&M University terminated its agreement to host two Confucius Institutes at the urging of Representatives Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Michael McCaul (R-TX), who described the institutes as threats to national security.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, on Parler @alana, and on Instagram.

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