The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, passed by both the House and Senate and now sitting on President Trump’s desk, would address the issue of Chinese government-sponsored Confucius Institutes on American college campuses. A key amendment put forward by Texas Senator Ted Cruz would prohibit funding under the act to any Confucius Institute and restrict funding to any college or university that has a Confucius Institute.
The National Association of Scholars supports this policy change, and we thank Senator Cruz for his leadership on this issue.
Confucius Institutes are centers on college campuses funded and largely staffed by the Chinese government. Our 2017 report, Outsourced to China, found that Confucius Institutes restrict academic freedom and present a whitewashed version of China. Since then, FBI Director Christopher Wray and others have raised concerns that Confucius Institutes may be engaged in espionage.
We call on all colleges and universities to close their Confucius Institutes at once. Senator Cruz’s amendment is a step toward incentivizing colleges and universities to part ways with Confucius Institutes.
The federal government currently funds Chinese language programs at American colleges and universities, in part through the National Defense Authorization Act. The 2019 authorization bill would require that in order for colleges and universities to access that funding, they must not have a Confucius Institute or must demonstrate that the Confucius Institute and its staff play no role in the federally funded Chinese language program. Colleges receiving those funds would also be required to make publicly available all agreements and contracts related to the Confucius Institute.
The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness would be permitted to waive these restrictions if he determines the Chinese language program “necessary for national security, and there is no reasonable alternative to issuing the waiver.”
Senator Cruz has previously introduced legislation, the Stop Higher Education Espionage and Theft Act, to address Confucius Institutes and other sources of foreign interference in American higher education.
The National Association of Scholars thanks Senator Cruz and all who supported the National Defense Authorization Act for including this important provision.
Photo: Pentagon // Creative Commons