China pays some $10 billion yearly for propaganda units in America called Confucius Institutes, which are located on the campuses of many major educational institutions, and now some members of Congress are wondering how big a threat they are to national security.
“I have long been concerned about the presence of Chinese government-run Confucius Institutes on American university campuses given the threat that these institutes pose to academic freedom as well as possible national security concerns,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon.
“The FBI has warned that the Chinese government uses non-traditional intelligence collection and exploits the openness of our academic research environment, so it is imperative that academic institutions, as well as the Defense Department and other federal agencies that are funding potentially sensitive research, be mindful of this threat,” he said.
The concerns were documented by Natalie Johnson in a Free Beacon report, which explained new research partnerships, including grants, have developed between the Defense Department and several universities.
The Free Beacon said: “The Pentagon last week awarded five grants to university-industry teams collaborating on research related to U.S. defense capabilities as part of the department’s Defense Enterprise Science Initiative, a pilot program that incentivizes this type of collaboration. Three of the universities – Arizona State, Stanford, and the University of Washington – are home to Confucius Institutes, which are embedded on college campuses to teach Chinese language and culture while propagating communist viewpoints.”
Congress has ordered that no university can use Pentagon funds to provide Chinese language courses at the centers.
Rubio has urged Florida officials to close down Confucius Institutes on state campuses, following reports the Chinese government uses them to censor discussion on topics China dislikes, such as the Tiananmen Square massacre and the political status of Tibet.
Rubio was joined by Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., in proposing laws that would require colleges to disclose charitable gifts from foreign sources.
“We need to send a clear message to American academic leaders: they cannot be naïve to the threat faced by Chinese influence operations through innocuous-sounding groups like Confucius Institutes,” he told the Free Beacon.
The Department of Defense recently said it had selected five university teams for various components of the Defense Enterprise Science Initiative.
The work is intended to speed up research on defense capabilities and university-industry collaboration.
“DESI’s goals are twofold. First, it seeks to foster sustainable university-industry partnerships to identify and apply new discoveries and knowledge on existing capabilities and address technological gaps,” the government said.
“Programs like DESI are vital to foster collaboration in the research ecosystem and accelerate the transition of ground-breaking basic science to transformative capabilities,” said Dr. Bindu Nair, deputy director for Basic Research. “I look forward to seeing how these teams can help us address our unique and challenging defense problem sets.”
Topics for the research will include soft active composite materials, metamaterial-based antennas, highly maneuverable autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles and power beaming.
Each research effort gets up to $1.5 million over two years.
Now Rubio and Banks are seeking legislation that would demand that colleges reveal charitable gifts from foreign sources.
“We need to send a clear message to American academic leaders: they cannot be naïve to the threat faced by Chinese influence operations through innocuous-sounding groups like Confucius Institutes,” Banks told the news organization.
More criticism came from Michael Griffin, a DoD official, regarding research and engineering.
He admitted the Pentagon needs to pay attention.
The institutes are run by a division of the Chinese Ministry of Education known as Hanban. They are part of Beijing’s overall propaganda campaign.
The report said some 100 U.S. universities now have partnerships with the Chinese government through Confucius Institutes “and the U.S. intelligence community has warned of their potential as a spying tool.”
“The concern is particularly pressing at the 13 universities that host both Confucius Institutes and top-secret Pentagon research, including Arizona State, Auburn, Purdue, Stanford and the University of Washington,” the Free Beacon said.
“In a classified report issued earlier this year, the CIA cautioned against efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to stipulate funding to universities and policy institutes in exchange for academic censorship. The agency warned of the Chinese Communist Party’s ‘strings-attached funding’ to American colleges ‘to deter research that casts it in a negative light.'”
Only weeks earlier, the Free Beacon reported on strategies by the Chinese Communist Party to fund academic endeavors with money tied up with strings “to deter research that casts it in a negative light.”
At that time, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau was investigating dozens of Confucius Institutes, in part because the agreements with universities largely are kept secret.
At the time, Rubio warned that Beijing was becoming more aggressive in its campaign to exploit academic freedom in America to teach its propaganda.