After being outed by the State Dept., China’s US college infiltration operation just rebranded: Report

Philip Lenczycki, DCNF

  • The Chinese government-backed Confucius Institute program has rebranded in order to circumvent U.S. policy, according to a report from the National Association of Scholars on Tuesday.
  • Confucius Institutes allegedly serve “Beijing’s multifaceted propaganda efforts,” the Department of State announced in 2020.
  • After the Department of State designated the Confucius Institute as a “foreign mission” in 2020 many universities allegedly formed “sister university” relationships with Chinese schools, Rachelle Peterson, senior research fellow at the National Association of Scholars, told reporters during a Tuesday press conference.

A Chinese influence operation targeting U.S. schools has reportedly rebranded in order to sidestep U.S. policy, the National Association of Scholars (NAS) announced during a Tuesday press conference.

After the Confucius Institute (CI), a Chinese government-backed organization, was designated a “foreign mission” by the Department of State in August 2020, dozens of universities reportedly dissolved their long-standing relationships with the purported Chinese language and culture centers. However, after the U.S. schools formally dissolved their CI programs, many reportedly rekindled the relationship under a “sister university” arrangement managed by CI’s parent, Hanban, who also rebranded as the Ministry of Education Center for Language Exchange and Cooperation (CLEC) and the Chinese International Education Foundation (CIEF), according to a report NAS released on June 15.

“We looked at all 118 Confucius Institutes that have ever existed in the United States, at least 28 that closed a Confucius Institute replaced it with something similar, usually operated in partnership with CLEC,” Rachelle Peterson, senior research fellow at NAS, told reporters during the press conference.

Peterson told reporters that under the guidance of CLEC or CIEF, at least 58 schools maintained a relationship with their Chinese sister universities and that at least five schools recruited a new host location for their CI program to maintain the relationship.

Purdue University maintained the functionality of its CI program by establishing another “sister university” relationship, according to the NAS report. The vestiges of Purdue’s CI programs reportedly continue to operate on campus with the assistance of Shanghai Jiaotong University under the guidance of the former director of Purdue’s CI program.

“The single most popular reason that colleges and universities give when they close a Confucius Institute is that they’re going to replace it with another Chinese partnership,” Peterson told reporters. “The second most popular reason is U.S. public policy, which is almost certainly the actual driver of U.S. Confucius Institute closures.”

The 2020 Department of State designation of CI as a “foreign mission” was bolstered by the passage of the CONFUCIUS Act in March 2021, which stipulated that schools which maintain CI programs were ineligible to receive most Department of Education funds.

The NAS report comes as lawmakers continue to grapple with the danger of undisclosed foreign funding following John Allen’s resignation as president of Brookings Institution on June 12. Allen resigned after the FBI accused him of failing to register as a foreign agent of Qatar.

Texas Republican Rep. Lance Gooden’s bipartisan Fighting Foreign Influence Act, which was introduced on June 16, would require nonprofits, such as Brookings Institution, to disclose foreign funding. Similarly, Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton’s Foreign Funding Accountability Act would require universities to disclose foreign gifts and contracts, such as arrangements with Chinese universities or the Chinese government.

Cotton said the Biden administration had recently halted higher education foreign gift disclosure requirements which were newly enforced under the Trump administration, according to a June 20 report from The American Conservative.

The Chinese Embassy, the Center for Language Education and Cooperation and Purdue University did not respond immediately to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

Josh Hypes contributed to this article.

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