Former President Donald Trump openly opposed the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to extend its influence globally, especially in the United States and with particular regard to what are known as Confucius Institutes on university campuses.
The concern regarding Confucius Institutes (CIs) appears to have made an impact, as several dozen of the ostensible joint education programs have already or are in the process of shutting down, the Washington Examiner reported.
Rapid decline of CIs across America
Confucius Institutes are joint efforts between Chinese and U.S. academic institutions to provide for the exchange of culture and language, which, up until recently, were controlled and funded on the Chinese side by the communist regime’s Ministry of Education.
There were growing concerns that CIs could potentially be utilized by the Chinese government to extend “soft power” and potentially malign foreign influence over the U.S. and other nations, as well as facilitate espionage, indoctrination through propaganda, and technology theft.
The Examiner noted that there were more than 100 CIs scattered across the U.S. just a few years ago, but that number has now dwindled to just a few dozen. In fact, while reports vary, the outlet estimated that there are only around 27 active CIs at this point in time.
The National Association of Scholars (NAS), which helped raise the alarm over the potential foreign influence of CIs several years ago, currently estimates that there are around 50 active CIs across the nation, with 11 set to be shut down at some point this year.
Calling out the threat
A substantial factor in that decline was the labeling of the Confucius Institute U.S. Center (CIUS) in Washington, D.C. as a “foreign mission” by Trump’s State Department — a designation that has not been altered by President Joe Biden’s administration but is being legally contested by CIUS.
A Biden State Department spokesperson told the Examiner that the administration “has ongoing concerns about the overseas influence and global propaganda activities of the (People’s Republic of China) government, including through Confucius Institutes, that might affect academic freedom in the United States,” and added that “many of these malign activities lack transparency and attempt to hide or downplay their affiliation with the PRC government and the CCP.”
That is remarkably similar to the view held by the Trump administration and majorities in Congress of CIs over the past few years and suggests that, if only on this one particular issue, most Americans share a legitimate concern over China’s efforts to exert its influence into other nations, particularly our own.
Globalists want to reform CIs
Of course, not everyone aligns with that view, and the globalist-aligned Brookings Institute recently urged the Biden administration to change its policies to be more accommodating of CIs, arguing that the exchange of culture and language with China was necessary going forward.
Brookings acknowledged that there needed to be more oversight and transparency of CIs, but it downplayed much of the more serious concerns about espionage, propaganda, and technology theft while focusing instead on freedom of academic expression issues for faculty members.
In the end, the fact that dozens of colleges and universities have heeded the warnings about China’s CIs suggests that, once again, Trump was correct in his view of the potential threat they posed and the naive globalists were wrong to blindly trust the Chinese communists.