Sens. Cruz, Blackburn Introduce Bill Targeting Beijing’s Influence at American Colleges
HOUSTON, Texas - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) introduced the Transparency for Confucius Institutes Act on Tuesday
Confucius Institutes, which are run and paid for by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), currently operate at 55 American colleges and universities. They allow China to discretely influence what college students are taught about topics like Hong Kong and Tiananmen Square and impede freedom of speech on campus. Beijing's propaganda officials have even recently "rebranded" Confucius Institutes as centers for "language exchange and cooperation" to avoid government oversight.
Upon introduction, Sen. Cruz said:
"The Chinese Communist Party engages in propaganda and censorship to control what Americans see, hear, and ultimately think about China. China continues to be the single greatest geopolitical threat facing the United States, and I am proud to join Senator Blackburn to ensure the CCP is held accountable for their malign influence and widespread espionage targeting American higher education."
Sen. Blackburn said:
"Beijing will look for any opportunity to gain a foothold in American communities and push propaganda. Confucius Institutes allow Communist China to have leverage over students at American colleges and universities. We cannot allow students to be brainwashed by revisionist history."
Sen. Cramer said:
"The Chinese Communist Party will take any opportunity they get to indoctrinate American students. Our bill shines a light on their activities and increases accountability measures to keep their propaganda out of our schools."
Sen. Tuberville said:
"Concerted efforts to infiltrate our American education system through Confucius Institutes are dangerous and need to be directly addressed. I am proud to join with my colleagues to demand transparency and push back against the actions of the Chinese Communist Party."
Sen. Braun said:
"The Transparency for Confucius Institutes Act is a common sense reform to ensure that our nation's higher education institutions are free from the influence of the Chinese Communist Party."
Sen. Hawley said:
"Confucius Institutes allow the Chinese regime to funnel propaganda into American universities under the guise of educational enrichment. It's long past time that this is made clear to Americans up front, and that anyone involved with these centers face background checks. Anything else would be an abdication of our national security efforts."
Sen. Scott added:
"Communist China, led by General Secretary Xi, continues to steal U.S. technology and intellectual property in their quest for world domination. We have to acknowledge the threat Confucius Institutes pose to our students, and I'm proud to join the Transparency for Confucius Institutes Act to protect our universities and our national security."
The Transparency for Confucius Institutes Act would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to require program participation agreements between the CCP agency which administers educational programs, known as the Hanban, and American institutions to address the ways in which Beijing exerts undue influence through Confucius Institutes, including:
- Clearly delineating between the Confucius Institutes' programs and their own Chinese language programs;
- Locating an Institute apart from these departments;
- Removing the Chinese assistant director position from Institutes;
- Removing the confidentiality section of agreements;
- Making the agreements publicly available online; and
- Including stronger language in the agreements to make it clearer that the U.S. school has executive decision-making authority.
Confucius Institutes receive funding and oversight primarily from the Hanban, headquartered in Beijing and affiliated with the People's Republic of China's (PRC) Ministry of Education. Given the Hanban's close ties to the Government of China, the presence of Confucius Institutes at American colleges and universities often constrains campus activities and classroom content.
Many recent studies provide examples of PRC officials pressuring faculty at U.S. universities that host Confucius Institutes to avoid making statements or holding events on topics that PRC officials consider politically sensitive. Moreover, Chinese teachers at these institutes sign contracts with the Government of China, pledging not to damage the PRC's national interests. Such limitations export China's censorship of political debate and reduce academic freedom.
For these reasons, in August 2020, the State Department designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center (CIUS) as a foreign mission to the PRC.