Dozens of universities, including Columbia and Stanford, are hosting the Chinese government-funded Confucius Institute despite increasing scrutiny from the federal government.
Many elite universities with Confucius Institute programs appear to be unfazed by the Trump administration’s decision last week to designate the D.C-based headquarters of the program as a “foreign mission”—a label the U.S. government applies to entities it finds to be directly controlled by a foreign power. Despite the announcement, nearly 50 colleges and universities will continue their partnership with Confucius Institute programs, which comes with up to $1 million in Chinese government funding.
The cushy partnership between American universities and the Chinese regime has restricted academic freedom on campus, frequently forcing administrators and faculty members to self-censor to avoid Beijing’s wrath. While many universities rely on the organization to support Mandarin language classes and Chinese culture lessons, the program also bars its staff from discussing topics considered taboo by the Chinese Communist Party, such as the Xinjiang concentration camps or the Hong Kong protests.
Growing bipartisan criticism for the program has pushed more than 50 colleges and universities to cut ties with the Chinese government. In just the first eight months of 2020, 22 universities have eliminated chapters of the Confucius Institute—one more than the number of chapters shut down in all of 2019.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.), a consistent critic of the Confucius Institute in Congress, applauded the universities for ending their ties with the program but warned that the colleges might still find alternative means to partner with the Chinese government.
- A Texas A&M professor was charged with conspiracy, making false statements and wire fraud on allegations that he was secretly collaborating with the Chinese government while conducting research for NASA, the Department of Justice said Monday.
- Zhengdong Cheng, 53, an engineering professor and a NASA researcher, obscured his affiliations and collaboration with a Chinese university and at least one Chinese-owned company, according to a criminal complaint.
- Cheng’s arrest comes almost two months after the DOJ announced the indictment of a Harvard professor, Charles Lieber, who allegedly made false statements to federal authorities regarding work at a university in China.