by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Republican lawmakers called on the Biden administration to better monitor Chinese influence in higher education after a report detailed that a number of universities had reorganized cooperation agreements with the Chinese government.
Earlier this month, the National Association of Scholars showed how a number of Chinese government-funded Confucius Institutes had reorganized and were still largely functional even as the universities claimed they had closed the centers.
Under the Trump administration, the Chinese cultural centers had drawn significant scrutiny due to their ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The national security concerns voiced by government officials ultimately led most colleges to shutter their Confucius Institutes.
But the conservative advocacy group’s new report details how even though universities may have closed their Confucius Institutes on paper, many had simply reorganized their partnerships with Chinese universities and the Chinese government and were still operating nearly identical programs. The report particularly highlights the closures of Confucius Institutes at the University of Washington, Arizona State University, Purdue University, and Western Kentucky University.
“In no cases are we sufficiently confident to classify any university as having fully closed its Confucius Institute,” the NAS report says. “All four of our case study institutions showed evidence of continued collaboration with the Chinese government. Of the additional 100 colleges and universities that have closed a CI, our research could not confirm a single complete closure of the Confucius Institute.”
The report details how in many cases, the universities began negotiating new agreements with their partners in China even as they formulated plans to close Confucius Institutes.
In many cases, according to the report, the institutes were simply transferred to other entities. For example, the University of Washington transferred its Confucius Institute to Pacific Lutheran University, and Western Kentucky University transferred its institute to Simpson County public schools.