“The Chinese Communist Party has made nests for its propaganda on college campuses all over our country. . . . It’s time to end Communist China’s deceitful attacks on democratic freedoms by giving power back to American students and educators.”
WASHINGTON – Today the Senate passed the Concerns Over Nations Funding University Campus Institutes in the United States (CONFUCIUS) Act by unanimous consent. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced the legislation in March 2019 to address concerns about Confucius Institutes’ suppressing free speech on American college campuses. Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) cosponsored the legislation.
“The Chinese Communist Party has made nests for its propaganda on college campuses all over our country. Confucius Institutes are threatening academic liberty and free speech without shame, and too many American schools have fallen victim to the political con. It’s time to end Communist China’s deceitful attacks on democratic freedoms by giving power back to American students and educators,” said Kennedy.
At universities across the U.S., the Chinese government is waging an influence war through its Confucius Institutes. Though ostensibly designed to promote cultural studies on college campuses, Confucius Institutes receive direct funding from the Chinese government.
The CONFUCIUS Act reduces the Chinese Communist Party’s influence on U.S. colleges and universities by granting full managerial authority of Confucius Institutes to the universities that host them.
Specifically, the CONFUCIUS Act provides that Confucius Institutes must:
- Protect academic freedom on the campus where the Confucius Institute is located,
- Prohibit the application of any foreign law on any campus of the institution, and
- Grant full control over what a Confucius Institute teaches, the activities it carries out, the research grants it gives, and the individuals it employs to the college or university on which it is located.
This bill would prohibit federal government funding to colleges and universities that host Confucius Institutes and are not in compliance with the above provisions. The funding prohibition would only apply to funding directed to the college or university and would not include funding disbursed to students, such as Pell Grants.
Video of Kennedy’s unanimous consent request is available here.
- According to the nonpartisan National Association of Scholars, there are at least 72 Confucius Institutes at colleges and universities in the U.S.
- This May, the College Republican National Committee and the College Democrats of America wrote a joint letter calling for the “immediate and permanent closure of all Confucius Institutes in the United States” due to their “concerns over the present state of academic freedom” and “the continued exploitation of liberal, democratic academic institutions by authoritarians.”
- These institutes can threaten universities by withholding funding in order to achieve their objectives, such as regulating speech the Chinese government opposes. Universities forced to choose between losing funding or upholding free speech are often tempted to yield to an institution funded by a foreign government over the interests of free speech. This allows foreign governments like China’s Communist Party to exert influence (such as prohibiting the Dalai Lama from speaking on a campus) and even apply Chinese Communist laws on U.S. soil.