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China’s Espionage Institutes Still Operate in U.S. Universities

Cientos de Institutos Confucio “cerrados” siguen operando encubiertos

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THE STRATEGY of buying off elites used by the Communist Party of China (CPC) includes among its targets U.S. universities. Beijing’s primary tool for influencing foreign academic centers has been “Confucius Institutes.” By 2020, there were more than 118 of them in American universities, offering language and cultural training in Mandarin, through funding from Hanban, an agency of the Chinese Ministry of Education.

During the Trump administration, Secretary of State Pompeo denounced the Confucius Institutes as part of Beijing’s global propaganda apparatus and in 2020 officially designated the American Confucius Institute Center as an official part of the Chinese foreign mission. The State Department warned universities that Confucius Institutes were a source of disinformation and CCP propaganda on their campuses.

In 2018, FBI Director Chris Wray told the Senate that they were investigating Confucius Institutes for alleged cooperation with Beijing’s spying on American universities. Universities appeared to close 104 of the 118 Confucius Institutes in the United States, but a report by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) revealed that actually none of the 104 “closed” Confucius Institutes ceased operating. They were renamed through agreements with “sister universities” in China, moved from one to another school in the same university, or moved names and/or universities. Money from Beijing continued to fund them.

The Chinese government renamed the Hanban “Center for Language Exchange and Cooperation (CLEC)” and the CLEC created an “autonomous” organization called the China International Education Foundation (CIEF) that centralized the funding and supervision of the Confucius Institutes that kept the name (and much of those that masqueraded under other names). The NAS tracked 109 Confucius Institutes. The report reveals cases like the Confucius Institute at the University of Washington in Seattle, separate from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. Western Kentucky University’s Confucius Institute moved to the Simpson County K-12 school system, keeping the same administration.

There are disclosure laws on foreign funds received by American universities. Yale has already been caught failing to report the $30 million donated by its Chinese billionaire graduate Joe Tsai to Yale Law School’s China Center, renamed the Paul Tsai China Center.

In former times, Yale Law School’s China Center would have been the place for Yale student Nathan Law (Chinese-born, Hong Kong-raised, and leader of the “Umbrella Movement”) to explain the destruction of Hong Kong’s rule of law under Beijing’s boot. Nathan Law fiercely defended Hong Kong’s, spent eight months in prison, and was listed by TIME magazine among the 100 most influential people of 2020. But these days, Nathan Law has been permanently harassed at that American university by woke students and Chinese government scholars, while the Yale administration looked the other way.

Now Jamie P. Horsley, former executive director and senior fellow at the Tsai Center, actively defends Confucius Institutes on American campuses, claiming that it allows U.S. universities to offer Mandarin instruction with funding from China. Horsley wrote articles denying the reality of the tools of Beijing’s techno-totalitarianism (particularly the social credit system) and is a leading academic propagandist for the Silk Road and Belt Initiative.

Rachelle Peterson, a researcher for the NAS report on the “defunct” Confucius Institutes, revealed at the Heritage Foundation that a Chinese director of a Confucius Institute at an American university, asked how he would respond to a student who asked him about Tiananmen Square, replied that he would point to the beautiful architecture because that’s what’s important about that square.


Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros

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