Leaked government documents recently obtained by The Epoch Times reveal that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s major overseas education projects have suffered setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, funding cuts, and the international community’s pushback.
Confucius Institutes (CIs) and the Belt and Road University Alliance are educational projects that aim to spread the Chinese regime’s communist propaganda inside foreign countries.
Confucius Institutes Suffer Setbacks
The Epoch Times obtained a set of documents from the Gansu provincial government, including internal work reports. According to a document from the Gansu education bureau dated June 11, the bureau’s deputy director Xu Hongwei said during a communist cadre training session that the COVID-19 pandemic “has a huge impact on international cooperation and exchanges in education” this year.
Xu emphatically pointed out that CIs are suffering setbacks and have entered a “severe winter.” He said that since 2018, 16 universities in the United States have announced that they will no longer renew their agreements with the CIs, and 11 CIs have closed.
CIs are operated under the Chinese government agency Hanban, under its Ministry of Education. But amid the international community’s pushback against Beijing’s infiltration tactics through CIs, the CCP rebranded CIs under the new name of Chinese International Education Foundation in July.
The Hanban itself says that the CI is still a government-funded project, and teachers who are sent to teach overseas are still screened and selected by the Party.
In August, a Washington-based center that promotes CIs in the United States was designated as a foreign mission. In September, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped that all CIs on American college campuses will be closed before the end of 2020.
According to the document, Xu stated at the cadre training that “Party management of foreign affairs” must be strictly implemented, including the work of CIs. Xu regarded the establishment of seven CIs by Gansu Province as an achievement of the local government’s “going global.”
However, CIs “are facing difficulties of transformation,” the Gansu education bureau admitted in a work report on “opening up the education field to the West,” issued on Sept. 7.
‘Belt and Road University Alliance’ Hit Hard by Pandemic
In October 2015, the Gansu provincial government established the “Belt and Road University Alliance,” an offshoot of China’s grand foreign policy project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), at Lanzhou University. It was then set up in 47 universities in BRI countries and regions under an agreement called the “Dunhuang Consensus”—named after the famous locale known for its Buddhist statues and frescos and a critical hub of the ancient Silk Road.
Gansu’s education bureau stated at the time that it should actively expand CIs in BRI countries with the help of the Belt and Road University Alliance.
CCP authorities have used Gansu’s strategic location to reach out to central Asian countries along the Silk Road through establishing the Belt and Road University Alliance.
Gansu officials disclosed in a memorandum on Belt and Road-related education efforts that compared with 2019, this year’s special funds invested by local universities under the BRI were cut nearly in half, from 12.136 million yuan (about $1.73 million) in 2019 to over 6.76 million yuan ($1 million). This figure was less than the funding in 2018.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of students attending CIs in BRI countries decreased to 4,758 this year, compared to 7,790 students in 2019, and 12,421 students in 2018—which was the peak, according to the document.
In addition, the document disclosed that the number of schools joining the Belt and Road University Alliance this year is the same as last year, still at 173, which shows that the university alliance has failed to attract new members.
‘Overseas Chinese International Schools’ Could Fail: Expert
The internal documents also reveal the latest project of the CCP’s global infiltration through education—creating a new “Overseas Chinese International Schools” program.
In a June 2020 document the bureau issued to the Gansu division of a CCP advisory body known as the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the national Ministry of Education would create an educational model primarily based on the existing CI, but gradually develop it into a separate Chinese international school that will offer Chinese language and culture instruction. The program has not yet officially launched.
U.S.-based current affairs analyst Li Linyi believes that the new program is unlikely to take off, because the regime’s infiltration tactics in various fields such as politics, economy, science and technology, and education, have come under broader scrutiny in recent years.
He Jian contributed to this report.