An Important Step in the Fight to Ban Chinese Confucius Institutes

Rachelle Peterson

Editor's Note: This article was originally published by National Review on August 19, 2020 and is republished here with permission.

Alabama is poised to become the first state to take up legislation banning public colleges and universities from hosting Confucius Institutes, the Chinese government-sponsored campus centers that propagandize for Beijing and serve as outposts of Communist Party espionage. State representative Tommy Hanes recently unveiled a draft proposal to ban the centers, which immediately drew public support from Alabama congressman Mo Brooks.

The bill would prohibit public universities in Alabama from “providing support for, funding for, or use of its campus facilities” for “cultural institutes that are affiliated with, funded by, or supported by the government of China.” It would affect both of Alabama’s existing Confucius Institutes, at Alabama A&M and Troy University. (A third Confucius Institute, at Auburn University at Montgomery, closed quietly a few years ago.)

Hanes says he plans to pre-file the bill in January for the next legislative session and has promised “a strong effort to stop Communism in America.” Clint Reid, chairman of the College Republican Federation of Alabama, which supports the bill, says his group intends to “work on this issue until both Confucius Institutes in Alabama are shuttered.”

It’s a straightforward bill — two pages long — and should be a model for the other 49 states to follow. The Confucius Institutes funded by the Chinese government have no place on American college campuses. They teach the Chinese Communist Party’s warped version of Chinese history, whitewash the CCP regime’s abuses of human rights, and present a unilaterally positive view of modern-day China. Staffed by teachers selected, paid, and flown over by the CCP, they do this dirty business while trading on the reputations of American universities.

Hanes’s bill is noteworthy not just for being the first scheduled for introduction in a state legislature, but because it seeks to ban Confucius Institutes altogether, going a step further than two different bills currently before Congress: the CONFUCIUS Act, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent in June, and the Transparency for Confucius Institutes Act. These bills seek to exact various commitments and transparency requirements of Confucius Institutes but stop short of calling for their outright closure. Both, if enacted, would represent progress; their improvements to our nation’s outdated and loophole-ridden laws regarding the disclosure of foreign gifts to colleges and universities would be especially welcome. Their sponsors and supporters deserve commendation for taking an important step toward protecting colleges and universities from Confucius Institutes.

But shutting Confucius Institutes down should be the ultimate goal, and there is precedent, even at the national level, for using government pressure as a means to that end. Two years ago, in the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress voted to strip colleges and universities of certain Pentagon grants unless they closed their Confucius Institutes. And my organization, the National Association of Scholars, has long called for Confucius Institutes to be closed, most recently by urging Congress to condition higher-education institutions’ pandemic-relief funds on their closure.

Hanes’s bill deserves widespread support, and not just from Republicans. Fighting the pernicious influence of Confucius Institutes is a bipartisan cause, as illustrated most recently by the Athenai Institute’s Washington Appeal, which called for the closure of all the Institutes and was signed by the chairs of both the College Democrats of America and the College Republicans National Committee.

Here’s hoping legislators in the rest of the United States take notice — and follow Hanes’s lead.

Rachelle Peterson is Senior Fellow at the National Association of Scholars.

Image: Exothermic, Public Domain

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