China’s Confucius Institute designated as a foreign mission of Beijing

Greg Nash

The State Department has designated China’s Confucius Institute a foreign mission of Beijing, saying the center is an engine for Chinese propaganda efforts in the U.S.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the Confucius Institute U.S. Center, a Chinese government-funded program that focuses on teaching Chinese language and culture across the globe, is “an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign on U.S. campuses and K-12 classrooms” and is working to expand the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) “global influence.” 

The designation of the Confucius Institute, which has branches on college campuses in the U.S., formalizes the government’s conclusion that the organization is “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by a foreign government and mandates it follow administrative requirements that reflect those for other diplomatic missions like embassies and consulates. 

“The goal of these actions is simple: to ensure that American educators and school administrators can make informed choices about whether these CCP-backed programs should be allowed to continue, and if so, in what fashion. Universities around the country and around the world are examining the Confucius Institutes’ curriculum and the scope of Beijing’s influence in their education systems,” said Pompeo.  

“The United States wants to ensure that students on U.S. campuses have access to Chinese language and cultural offerings free from the manipulation of the Chinese Communist Party and its proxies.” 

The Confucius Institute’s branches have long drawn the ire of China hawks in Washington, with some Republicans urging colleges to cut their ties with the organization.

“Confucius Institutes have become a big part of campus life around the country, but behind the student activities and language programs, the institutes have two more nefarious core objectives: spreading communist propaganda and spying on Chinese students studying in the free world,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) after the State Department’s announcement. “Beijing’s public diplomacy relies on these communist outposts so they should be forced to register as foreign missions.” 

The designation comes amid spiking tensions between Washington and Beijing, which have butted heads over the coronavirus, a new security law in Hong Kong, 5G technology, the status of Taiwan, trade and other issues under President Trump. 

The institute has also come under scrutiny from other nations, which have warned that the organization’s branches could serve as outposts for Chinese espionage efforts. A 2013 report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said the institute was a cover for Beijing’s efforts to spy on Canadian intelligence.

Tags Ben Sasse Chinese Communist Party Confucius Institute Donald Trump Foreign relations of China Mike Pompeo

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