by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Dozens of top American universities that received funding from the Chinese government failed to disclose those donations to the Department of Education, prompting concerns from education watchdogs about Beijing’s growing influence on campuses.
More than 100 U.S. universities host or once hosted Confucius Institutes, programs underwritten by the Chinese government that teach Chinese language and culture to American college students. The Department of Education requires all credentialed universities to disclose foreign gifts of more than $250,000, but only about 30 percent of institutions with Confucius Institutes have disclosed their financial ties to Beijing, according to a Washington Free Beacon review of federal records.
The Free Beacon reached out to all 75 institutions that did not report their funding to the federal government; 22 of them responded. A common theme of the responses was that the colleges did not disclose their donations because their annual receipts did not meet the $250,000 threshold. For example, a spokesman from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville said the college declined to disclose its 2019 Confucius Institute donations because it received only $246,711.
Rachelle Peterson, director of policy at the National Association of Scholars, called the lack of accountability at prestigious universities “alarming.”
“It is extremely alarming how little transparency there is,” she said. “$250,000 is much too high of a threshold. Gifts of money at much smaller amounts can be very swaying over a college or university, especially the humanities [departments] which traditionally have lower funding.”
The Chinese government has funneled millions of dollars to American universities to support more than 100 Confucius Institutes across the country. Colleges such as the University of Michigan, University of Maryland, and Emory University, which did disclose funding, have received $30.4 million in total between 2014 and 2020 for their Confucius Institutes, according federal filings.