As the federal response to Chinese influence at American universities falters, Tennessee is determined to pick up the slack by becoming the first state to ban the Chinese government-funded Confucius Institute from public universities.
After President Joe Biden scrapped a Trump-era proposal that would have required universities to disclose their foreign monetary ties, Governor Bill Lee realized that he needed to act quickly to protect the state’s universities from Chinese influence. The Tennessee Republican introduced a bill in the state legislature that would require the public universities to sever ties with the Confucius Institute.
“The Biden administration has rolled back the transparency that was put in place by the Trump administration, so we want to take care of that at the state level,” Lee told the Washington Free Beacon in a Tuesday morning interview.
The Tennessee bill is one of several state-level initiatives that seek to curtail foreign influence on American campuses. The Texas and Utah legislatures are debating bills that seek to close down Confucius Institute programs in state universities, according to a list of ongoing legislation maintained by the National Association of Scholars. Four other states are also considering bills with a wider scope, including measures to ban public universities from partnering not just with the Confucius Institute but with any “communist regimes” or “the government of China.”