House Republicans have initiated an investigation into the influence of the Chinese Communist Party at the country's top universities, as tensions between the two superpowers continue to rise.
Led by Reps. Pat Fallon (R-TX) and Jim Banks (R-IN), the investigation is focused on the funding received by schools with Confucius Institutes (CI) or other CCP-linked entities from the Department of Defense (DOD).
The lawmakers wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on February 3, demanding answers about the funding received by these institutions. The letter cites the National Defense Authorization Act (NDA), which prohibits the DOD from funding Chinese language instruction provided by a Confucius Institute starting in October 2023.
However, the lawmakers claim that the Confucious Institute has found ways around the law, and its parent organization, the Office of Chinese Language Council International (also known as Hanban), has rebranded itself as the Chinese International Education Foundation (CIEF) and now funds and oversees Confucius Institutes and other programs.
“As you are aware, Congress has long been concerned with the influence and infiltration of Confucius Institutes on the campuses of American IHEs,” the lawmakers’ letter reads. “According to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Confucius Institutes ‘advance Beijing’s preferred narrative and subvert important academic principles such as institutional autonomy and academic freedom.'”
The letter also claims that the DOD has awarded funding under contract to institutions affiliated with the newly rebranded groups, which they believe is a violation of the law if extended past October 1st, 2023. A report from the National Association of Scholars (NAS) in June last year warned that China was rebranding its Confucius Institutes in US universities.
Out of the 118 Confucius in the U.S., around 105 are now closed or no longer in operation. However, at least 38 colleges have replaced their closed CI programs with similar alternatives, according to a report by the National Association of Scholars.
The institutes, which receive funding from Beijing, have long been criticized for spreading CCP propaganda and stifling academic freedom. The same campuses that host the institutes received nearly $1.5 billion in gifts and contracts from China between 2014 and 2020.
John Metz, President of the Athenai Institute, a student-founded nonprofit focused on removing CCP influence from college campuses, told The Epoch Times: "The CCP sees the openness of our leading universities as a weapon that it can turn against us. It aims to use espionage and its financial influence over universities not only to control discourse and censor its critics but also to acquire the advanced technology it needs to expand its military might and further its genocidal policies.”