House GOP Leaders Urge Biden to Back Trump-Era Measure on Beijing’s Confucius Institutes

February 18, 2021 Updated: February 18, 2021

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other senior GOP representatives on Wednesday urged President Joe Biden to “resubmit the previously proposed rule regarding Confucius Institute reporting without delay” to forge solutions in the face of “CCP threats to U.S. education and research integrity.”

“Addressing the generational threat of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is a preeminent national security concern for the United States,” McCarthy said in the statement.

“Among the multitude of threats we face stemming from China, the CCP’s abuse of America’s academic system to steal sensitive research and technology, limit free expression, and propagandize our students is of particular concern.”

Confucius Institutes bill themselves as places to learn Mandarin, study Chinese culture, and land a scholarship. They’re funded and largely staffed by Hanban, a nonprofit that claims to be non-governmental, but is in fact directly controlled by the CCP from Beijing, according to a report by the Senate homeland security committee’s investigations subcommittee (pdf).

McCarthy referred to the rule submitted by the Trump administration to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Dec. 31, 2020.

Under the rule, colleges and K–12 schools would need to disclose their financial ties to Confucius Institutes (CIs) and affiliated Confucius Classrooms.

McCarthy pointed out that currently, CIs operate in at least 60 colleges and about 500 Confucius Classrooms in grade schools and high schools across the nation.

In 2009, a CCP Politburo standing committee member and “ideology czar” said that the CCP’s CIs are “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up,” McCarthy added.

“China wants to infiltrate every part of American life with its communist propaganda,” McCarthy wrote on Twitter. “We must stop them.”

Epoch Times Photo
The Confucius Institute Building on the Troy University Campus in Alabama, on March 16, 2018. (Kreeder13 via Wikimedia Commons)

Immigration Customs and Enforcement confirmed to Fox News that the rule was withdrawn on Jan. 26.

However, Ned Price, spokesperson of the Department of State, said in a press conference on Feb. 11 that the Trump administration never had its rule submitted to the Federal Register because the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had yet to complete its review of the draft rule.

Price said the withdrawal happened because of a widespread regulatory freeze instituted by the Biden administration on Inauguration Day.

Price pointed out that the CIs would still be treated as a foreign mission of the China regime. “[T]hat stands,” he said.

Nevertheless, the Republican lawmakers want the Biden administration to urgently back the previous administration’s efforts to protect the “integrity of the U.S. academic system” and make its “first step towards acknowledging that the CCP threat ultimately derives from hostility to our core democratic values and attempts to legitimize its own authoritarian system, which is rooted in Marxist-Leninist doctrine.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) had written a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Feb. 11 asking why the rule was withdrawn.

“U.S. Government agencies, including within the Intelligence Community, have clearly asserted that the communist Chinese government uses Confucius Institutes embedded in our academic institutions as a propaganda tool within the United States,” Grassley said in the letter (pdf). “Accordingly, withdrawing the rule is cause for serious concern and weakens our ability to detect and deter foreign influence efforts by the communist Chinese government.”

The White House didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’ request for further comment by press time.

There has been a global pushback against the CCP’s CIs, most notably in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. In 2013, McMaster University in Canada became the first university in North America to close its CI.

The National Association of Scholars (NAS), an education advocacy group, reported that 64 CIs have closed or are in the processing of closing as of Feb. 17.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), and Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) co-signed the statement.

Frank Fang, Cathy He, and Petr Svab contributed to this report.