Last week the University of North Florida announced its decision to close its Confucius Institute. The university has given notice to the Hanban, the Chinese government agency that funds and oversees Confucius Institutes, that the program will officially close in February 2019.
The University of North Florida is the ninth US institution to announce its intention to close a Confucius Institute, and the sixth in the last year. (See the full list here.)
Last year, our report Outsourced to China drew attention to the way the Chinese government uses Confucius Institutes to infiltrate American higher education and suppress academic freedom. We called on all universities to cut ties with their Confucius Institutes.
The National Association of Scholars welcomes the University of North Florida’s decision. We congratulate the university for choosing to protect its integrity and the academic freedom of its scholars and professors.
The university’s decision followed a letter from Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who warned Florida universities of the dangers of hosting a Confucius Institute. Senator Rubio also challenged Confucius Institutes to hold public events on topics deemed “too sensitive” by the Chinese government, such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
Senator Rubio has been particularly active in calling out Confucius Institutes and working to protect American higher education. He has introduced legislation, the Foreign Influence Transparency Act, to address Confucius Institutes. And he has raised questions about the Institutes in Senate committee hearings, prompting FBI Director Christopher Wray to testify that his agency was “watching warily” and taking “investigative steps” to address espionage by the Chinese government through Confucius Institutes.
The National Association of Scholars thanks Senator Rubio for his strong stance in defense of academic integrity.