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  • Gary Frankel

United States: Keep Confucius Institutes off College Campuses

Today, there are seven Confucius Institutes in the United States — down from a peak of more than 100 just a few years ago. The reasons for getting rid of them are clear: the benefits of Chinese language and culture instruction are not worth widespread academic censorship, heightened intellectual security risks, and blatant espionage in the service of America’s enemies.

Nevertheless, a growing number of scholars want to bring Confucius Institutes back to American campuses. A recent report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine argued that a well-regulated waiver program could allow universities to maintain both a Confucius Institute and Department of Defense funding. This report, though clearly well-intended, is naive.

More specifically, the Chinese Communist Party, as well as any of its operatives, have proven that they can play the long game. When Confucius Institutes first arrived in the United States in 2005, they did not immediately begin a censorship campaign. Instead, they accrued both financial and social capital, readily accepting opportunities to expand their influence when host universities provided such opportunities. Even with a stricter regulatory process in place, it would not be terribly difficult to hide subversive activities from federal investigators — it’s nothing they haven’t done before.

In this situation, it’s better to cut the problem at the root rather than convince ourselves that it won’t corrupt the entire vineyard. Our universities are the lifeblood of advancement in science, the humanities, and military technology. We should not, under any circumstances, allow enemy actors to dictate what we do.

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