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US Designates Confucius Institutes as Foreign Missions

October 14th, 2020 06:52

The US State Depart­ment last month des­ig­nat­ed the Chi­nese Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes as “For­eign Mis­sions.” Accord­ing to the State Depart­ment announce­ment:

Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes are clear­ly spon­sored by Bei­jing:Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes (CIs) are orga­ni­za­tions pri­mar­i­ly locat­ed on U.S. col­lege and uni­ver­si­ty cam­pus­es that push out skewed Chi­nese lan­guage and cul­tur­al train­ing for U.S. stu­dents as part of Beijing’s mul­ti­fac­eted pro­pa­gan­da efforts.  The PRC gov­ern­ment par­tial­ly funds these pro­grams, under guid­ance from the CCP’s Unit­ed Front Work Depart­ment.  On August 13, 2020, the Depart­ment of State des­ig­nat­ed the Con­fu­cius Insti­tute U.S. Cen­ter (CIUS), which serves as the Wash­ing­ton D.C.-based de fac­to head­quar­ters of the Con­fu­cius Insti­tute net­work, as a for­eign mis­sion of the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na. The opac­i­ty of this orga­ni­za­tion and its state-direct­ed nature are the dri­ving rea­sons behind this des­ig­na­tion. This action will not close the CIUS, nor will it require U.S. col­leges or uni­ver­si­ties to close indi­vid­ual Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes.  Instead, des­ig­nat­ing the CIUS as a for­eign mis­sion will ensure much need­ed trans­paren­cy by requir­ing the CIUS to reg­u­lar­ly pro­vide infor­ma­tion to the State Depart­ment about PRC cit­i­zen per­son­nel, recruit­ing, fund­ing, and oper­a­tions in the Unit­ed States.  With greater trans­paren­cy, edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions can make more informed choic­es about the influ­ence being exert­ed on their cam­pus­es and whether and how these Bei­jing-backed pro­grams should con­tin­ue to teach their stu­dents.  

Read the rest here.

The State Depart­ment defines a For­eign Mission as fol­lows:  

The For­eign Mis­sions Act defines the term “for­eign mis­sion” as any mis­sion or enti­ty in the Unit­ed States which is involved in the diplo­mat­ic, con­sular, or oth­er activ­i­ties that are sub­stan­tial­ly owned or effec­tive­ly con­trolled by:  

 A for­eign gov­ern­ment, or  

An orga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sent­ing a ter­ri­to­ry or polit­i­cal enti­ty which has been grant­ed diplo­mat­ic or oth­er offi­cial priv­i­leges and immu­ni­ties under the laws of the Unit­ed States or which engages in some aspect of the con­duct of the inter­na­tion­al affairs of such ter­ri­to­ry or polit­i­cal enti­ty, includ­ing any real prop­er­ty of such a mis­sion.  

Crit­i­cism of the Con­fu­cian Insti­tutes comes large­ly from a col­lec­tion of con­ser­v­a­tive think tanks as well as from the FBI. Accord­ing to the con­ser­v­a­tive Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Schol­ars:  

Han­ban, the CCP agency over­see­ing Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes, cur­rent­ly holds a remark­able lev­el of con­trol over the insti­tutes’ cur­ric­u­la and fac­ul­ty. Con­se­quent­ly, CIs func­tion more as pro­pa­gan­da out­lets and less as the “lin­guis­tic and cul­tur­al cen­ters” they pur­port to be. CIs rou­tine­ly sweep Chi­nese polit­i­cal his­to­ry and human rights abus­es under the rug; they speak of Tai­wan and Tibet as undis­put­ed ter­ri­to­ries of Chi­na; they fre­quent­ly recruit card-car­ry­ing mem­bers of the CCP to instruct cours­es; and, as Peter­son puts it, they teach “a gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can stu­dents to know noth­ing more of Chi­na than the regime’s offi­cial his­to­ry.” As of now, the Han­ban sim­ply has to throw large sums of mon­ey at col­lege and uni­ver­si­ty admin­is­tra­tions to coerce com­pli­ance.  

Read the rest here.  

In 2018, the FBI direc­tor Christo­pher Wray tes­ti­fied before a US Sen­ate pan­el:  

We do share con­cerns about the Con­fu­cius insti­tutes,” Wray respond­ed. “We’ve been watch­ing that devel­op­ment for a while. It’s just one of many tools that they take advan­tage of. We have seen some decrease recent­ly in their own enthu­si­asm and com­mit­ment to that par­tic­u­lar pro­gram, but it is some­thing that we’re watch­ing war­i­ly and in cer­tain instances have devel­oped appro­pri­ate inves­tiga­tive steps.”  

Read the rest here.  

The Insti­tutes do also have their defend­ers. For exam­ple, accord­ing to Inside High­er Ed, a promi­nent US aca­d­e­m­ic has said:  

Mar­shall Sahlins, the Charles F. Grey Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus of Anthro­pol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go and the author of Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes: Aca­d­e­m­ic Mal­ware (Prick­ly Par­a­digm Press, 2015), a book crit­i­cal of CIs, said he thinks the main rea­son for the clo­sures is “pres­sure from the Amer­i­can right, includ­ing the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Schol­ars [which issued a crit­i­cal report of CIs in 2017], as well as law­mak­ers, and from secu­ri­ty agen­cies of the U.S., notably the FBI: a coali­tion of polit­i­cal forces respond­ing dis­tant­ly to the devel­op­ing Cold War with Chi­na — rais­ing even old­er ter­rors such as Com­mu­nism and the Yel­low Per­il — and prox­i­mate­ly to drum­beat rumors that CIs are cen­ters of espi­onage. Those that give oth­er, face-sav­ing rea­sons are prob­a­bly pro­tect­ing their aca­d­e­m­ic cum finan­cial rela­tions to Chi­na, such their intake of tuition-pay­ing main­land stu­dents.”  

Read the rest here. 

The GIOR report­ed ear­li­er on the award­ing of what was described as a” mean­ing­less” aca­d­e­m­ic qual­i­fi­ca­tion to a Hong King busi­ness­man tied to Chi­nese authorities.

Con­fu­cian Insti­tutes are pub­lic edu­ca­tion­al part­ner­ships between col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in Chi­na and col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in oth­er coun­tries. In 2019, Inside High­er Ed described Con­fu­cian Insti­tutes as fol­lows:  

The Con­fu­cius Insti­tutes have long been con­tro­ver­sial. The cen­ters vary some­what across dif­fer­ent cam­pus­es, but they typ­i­cal­ly offer some com­bi­na­tion of Man­darin lan­guage class­es, cul­tur­al pro­gram­ming and out­reach to K‑12 schools and the com­mu­ni­ty more broad­ly. They are staffed in part with vis­it­ing teach­ers from Chi­na and fund­ed by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, with match­ing resources pro­vid­ed by the host insti­tu­tion. The num­ber of U.S. uni­ver­si­ties host­ing the insti­tutes increased rapid­ly after the first was estab­lished at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land Col­lege Park in 2004, grow­ing to more than 90 at the peak.  

Read the rest here.