The National Association of Scholars commends the Athenai Institute for releasing model legislation aimed at uprooting Confucius Institutes from American higher education. The draft bill, called the Action to Halt the Expansion of Neo-Authoritarian Influence (ATHENAI) Act, is meant for use by state legislators. It would require colleges and universities to close their Confucius Institutes by January 1, 2021 on penalty of losing state education funding.
We are especially pleased that the bill calls for the outright closure of Confucius Institutes, rather than merely proposing to regulate them. There is no safe way to operate a Confucius Institute, and state legislators would be wise to ban them altogether.
We are also pleased that the bill addresses the very real possibility that colleges and universities, facing public scrutiny, will rename rather than close their Confucius Institutes. The Chinese government is in the midst of reorganizing and rebranding Confucius Institutes, a move clearly aimed at sidestepping legislation targeted at Confucius Institutes. We commend the ATHENAI Act for addressing this sleight of hand.
The Athenai Institute, a recently formed nonprofit aimed at curbing Chinese Communist Party influence on college campuses, gained widespread attention earlier this year for the release of its Washington Appeal calling for the closure of all Confucius Institutes. In a strong show of bipartisanship, the heads of both the College Democrats of America and the College Republicans National Committee signed.
NAS is pleased that at least one state legislator has already unveiled plans to introduce a bill calling for the closure of Confucius Institutes, and we expect more bills to be introduced across the United States. We encourage state legislators nationwide to take up the ATHENAI Act. It is time for Confucius Institutes to close.
Image: ZhengZhou, Public Domain