House Republicans are probing the extent of Chinese influence and propaganda on college campuses in the United States.
The ranking members of seven House committees cosigned a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Monday asking for information on the department’s effort to tighten transparency rules for universities receiving foreign funding, according to The Washington Examiner.
“We write to seek a better understanding of the Department’s efforts to address unreported foreign direct investment into the U.S. higher education system,” the letter states. “This joint inquiry is in furtherance of Congressional Republican’s efforts to investigate the Chinese government’s propaganda and cover-up campaign surrounding this pandemic.”
The letter is signed by Reps. Virginia Foxx, Jim Jordan, Michael Rogers, Frank Lucas, Michael McCaul, Devin Nunes, and Mac Thornberry. The lawmakers requested the department turn over all communications, data, and preliminary findings related to the department’s investigation into U.S. universities that have underreported the amount of financial support they have received from foreign groups.
Citing a CNN report, the GOP lawmakers said that Beijing has put in place a strict review process over Chinese university researchers that are looking into the coronavirus. China has also given money to hundreds of U.S. universities, and the officials are concerned that Beijing may use its donations as leverage to influence academic research in the U.S.
“For some time, we have been concerned about the potential for the Chinese government to use its strategic investments to turn American college campuses into indoctrination platforms for American students,” the letter continues, citing a November 2018 report from the Hoover Institution that notes the presence of “110 ‘Confucius Institutes’ on college campuses as well as over 500 ‘Confucius Classrooms’ in secondary schools.”
The college Confucius Institutes are university programs set up to teach students about Chinese language and culture, and they are funded by the Chinese Ministry of Education. Many institutes have closed since 2018 because of an August 2018 law that barred universities from receiving funds from the U.S. Defense Department while also taking gifts from the Chinese government.
Still, U.S. colleges and universities are the recipients of a significant number of financial gifts and donations from the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party, and other closely-tied groups. Since 2013, the U.S. higher education system has taken close to $1 billion from Chinese groups. Harvard benefitted the most from such donations, receiving $93.7 million.
“These actions all bring into question whether U.S. [institutions of higher education (IHE)] receiving federal taxpayer dollars should be allowed to accept funds from China, the CCP, or other affiliated organizations. The interests of the two nations appear to have diverged,” the letter says.
“There are continued concerns about gaps in reporting by IHEs, individual faculty members, and researchers that could potentially endanger national security,” the letter continues. “Some foreign countries strategically invest in IHEs and researchers that also receive Defense Department grants in an attempt to steal sensitive U.S. military secrets and technology.”
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