China’s Return to College Campuses: Communist-Backed Confucius Institutes Renew Effort to Shape American Minds


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Colleges and universities across America have closed their doors to their Confucius institutes in recent years amid mounting criticism of the centers’ funding link to the Chinese communist government, but some are now reopening their doors under a different name as they continue to accept money. of the Chinese Communist Party.

Confucius Institutes are usually found on college and university campuses, with some exceptions operating in K-12 school districts. Their self-described goal is to educate students about Chinese language and culture, as tensions between the Chinese government and the United States reach levels not seen in decades, and while intelligence officials warn that instruction on language and culture is only is a cover. who wants to propagate the communist party within the walls of America’s classrooms.

Speaking in a 2019 US Senate hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the Confucius Institutes are a “worry of concern” and part of China’s “soft power strategy.”

“They provide a platform to spread the propaganda of the Chinese government or the Chinese Communist Party to encourage censorship and limit academic freedom,” Wray said.


Red flags flutter in front of the Great Hall of the People on March 4, 2022 in Beijing, China.
(Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Amid criticism from politicians and government leaders, dozens of US colleges and universities announced that the Confucius Institutes operating on their campuses would close. The National Association of Scholars states that the 118 Confucius Institutes that once operated in the US have since dwindled to just 18.

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But since at least 100 colleges and universities have closed their Confucius Institutes, effectively ending those agreements with Chinese Communist Party entities, a number of educational institutions have since signed new agreements with the Chinese government, according to a recent report from the National Association. of scholars.

Georgia State University, for example, closed its Confucius Institute in July 2020. In the same month, according to the report, a new agreement was signed between the university and Beijing Language and Culture University, the former partner school of the Confucius Institute, for a new program: the Chinese Language and Culture Programme.

The newly signed agreements that make up the Chinese Language and Culture Program include provisions such as “better protection of intellectual freedom,” but the Chinese government-sponsored university is still helping to staff the program, the report said.

Western Michigan University, whose Confucius Institute closed on December 31, 2020, signed a new agreement with its former Confucius Institute partner in China, Beijing Language and Culture University, a contract that will come into effect just one day after the Confucius Institute’s closure. trad. to the report.

Under the new contract, Beijing Language and Culture University is responsible for sending a scholar and paying that scholar’s salary, housing costs and other expenses. Western Michigan University will accommodate the new program, assist in obtaining a scholar visa selected by the Chinese government, and provide unspecified “tax aid,” the report said.

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Students at Western Michigan University.

Students at Western Michigan University.
(Western Michigan University/Facebook)

The Chinese government-sponsored university is also responsible for “providing curriculum” and “selection of textbooks,” according to the report. Similar to how the Confucius Institute worked, the visiting scholar appointed by the Beijing Language and Culture University is “responsible for overseeing and coordinating all teachers and staff provided by BLCU.”

TBEN News Digital has contacted Georgia State University, Western Michigan University and the FBI.

In all, at least 28 universities have replaced their Confucius Institute programs with something similar, according to the NAS report.

Ian Oxnevad, a program research associate with the National Association of Scholars and an author of the report, told TBEN News Digital that US universities are implementing Confucius Institute 2.0.

“The brand has been tarnished, but that doesn’t mean the vehicle is gone. You know, you can think of it as a bit of a tarnished label, but the product is still viable for China. Just label it on it and sell it as something else, too though it’s really the same,” Oxnevad said.


FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a press conference at FBI headquarters on June 14, 2018 in Washington, DC

FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a press conference at FBI headquarters on June 14, 2018 in Washington, DC
(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

He also said the threat posed by Confucius Institutes and their replacements is that it serves as a vehicle for China to “shape the perception of China among American students,” and more.

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“It’s an outlet for propaganda. At the same time, in fact, it also provides a location where China could essentially carry out economic espionage in the open air, in the sense of stealing secrets developed in academia and then getting them back.” send to China,” says Oxnevad. said. “It allows spying on dissidents. If you have critics of China, whether they are from China or not, in a specific institution, if there are faculties chosen by the Chinese government, they obviously have a way of dealing with them.” to check.”

The Confucius Institutes “rebranding” comes amid warnings from both Wray and Ken McCallum, director general of the United Kingdom’s MI5 intelligence agency. The two made statements during a joint action in London on July 6 warning American companies: The Chinese government wants to steal your technology.


“The Chinese government is determined to steal your technology — whatever it is that drives your industry — and use it to undermine your business and dominate your market,” Wray said. “And they’re committed to using every tool they have at their disposal to do it.”

Wray also said the Chinese Communist Party is targeting businesses in both small and large cities.