Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) is hoping to dismantle the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) influence on American academic institutions through Beijing-funded Confucius Institutes.
The Colorado Republican this week submitted an amendment (pdf) to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a massive defense bill that authorizes spending levels for defense, seeking to bar the use of funds from the legislation to provide grants to “any academic institution that receives funding from the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese Government or its affiliates, or hosts a Confucius Institute.”
In an exclusive interview with The Epoch Times, Buck described Confucius Institutes as “an avenue for the Chinese government to spread propaganda on U.S. campuses.”
“The propaganda is misleading and untruthful,” he added. “We as a government should not be funding institutions of higher education that are using and allowing Chinese propaganda to be spread.”
Billed as Chinese language and culture programs, Beijing-funded Confucius Institutes have drawn heightened criticism in the United States over their role in promoting CCP propaganda and stifling academic freedoms on American college campuses. The State Department during the Trump administration designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center as a foreign mission in recognition of its role as a propaganda agent of the Chinese regime.
Trump administration officials and lawmakers have also piled pressure on universities to disassociate from the institutes, resulting in dozens of closures across the country. There are currently 36 Confucius Institutes in the United States, down from more than 100 in 2017, according to the National Association of Scholars.
“My hope is that the universities will shut down the propaganda machines of one of our adversaries,” Buck said.
The measure was one of four NDAA amendments submitted by Buck to the House Rules Committee due for consideration on Sept. 20, before the bill moves to the House floor.
The congressman, in another proposed amendment, is pushing for a ban on Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok from being downloaded onto U.S. government devices.
“The threat is that the Chinese Communist Party … can use TikTok to gather sensitive information about Americans,” Buck said.
The Trump administration attempted to ban TikTok in August 2020, saying that the app could be used by the CCP to spy on Americans, but the order was never enforced as the result of several court orders. President Joe Biden revoked the ban in June, instead directing the Commerce Department to a review of apps with ties to the Chinese regime for national security risks. TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has denied allegations that the app poses an espionage risk.
Buck also wants Congress to take a stronger stance against the CCP’s sweeping human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, where more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are detained in a network of internment camps.
The current version of the House’s NDAA condemns the CCP’s actions in Xinjiang, but doesn’t label it as genocide. Buck is hoping to change this.
“The term genocide is used in a particular way in international law and is condemned in a particular way in international law,” he said.
“It’s important that the United Nations and our allies of the world understand that the United States Congress believes that the Chinese government is committing genocide.”
The U.S. government and several other Western legislatures have recognized the CCP’s campaign in Xinjiang as genocide.
The congressman called on the House to adopt the amendments, saying that Congress should send a “very strong message to China.”
“We will not tolerate their military activities around the world. We are aware of their activities, we’re concerned about those activities, and we are not going to turn a blind eye,” he added. “It’s very important in this NDAA that we send a message that Congress is absolutely resolute in recognizing the threat from China.”