Kentucky University Cuts Ties to its Confucius Institute

April 23, 2019 Updated: April 23, 2019

BOWLING GREEN, KY—Western Kentucky University (WKU) is cutting ties to its Confucius Institute due to a new federal policy.

News outlets report University President Tim Caboni made the announcement on April 22 in an email to faculty and staff. Caboni says defense spending legislation passed last year doesn’t allow institutions to host Confucius Institutes if they receive U.S. Department of Defense funding for Chinese language programs.

In August, a newly passed U.S. defense bill included a provision to bar the Department of Defense from using any funds on Chinese-language programs offered by Confucius Institutes.

WKU receives such funding for its Chinese flagship program, which allows students to study Chinese while also pursuing their undergraduate degree.

The Confucius Institute is a Chinese language and cultural education program that brought instruction to 47 public schools in 20 Kentucky school districts using teachers recruited from China. WKU had operated it for nine years.

Caboni says the school asked for a waiver, but was denied.

China’s Soft Power Concerns US Authorities

Currently, 107 U.S. colleges and universities host branches of the Confucius Institute, according to a report by the National Association of Scholars. The institutes—from the United States to Australia— have been under close scrutiny recently for their links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s latest report calls Confucius Institutes a front for infiltrating and spying. The China-funded education centers “also advance Beijing’s preferred narrative and subvert important academic principles, such as institutional autonomy and academic freedom,” the report said.

There also have been concerns that the CCP is using Confucius Institutes to coerce other nations to be more sympathetic to its agenda, through its use of “soft power.” The report said HanBan, the CCP’s Office of Chinese Language Council International, offers attractive packages to foreign schools and universities to set up Confucius Institutes that are staffed by Chinese teachers who are selected and funded by the CCP.

Teaching material often present CCP propaganda, which has provoked concerns that Confucius Institutes are silencing academic criticism of the Chinese regime.

In December, the University of Michigan announced that it will stop hosting the Confucius Institute when its current HanBan partnership expires in June 2019.

Epoch Times reporter Richard Szabo contributed to this report.