Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who is also a co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Committee on China, has voiced concerns over “Confucius Institutes” based at American universities and colleges.
Last week, the Department of Defense awarded grants to five universities to complete research on topics for the Defense Enterprise Science Initiative.
DESI is “a pilot program supporting university-industry research collaboration focused on accelerating the impact of basic research on defense capabilities.”
Three of the universities selected are Arizona State University, Stanford University, and the University of Washington, all of which have Confucius Institutes, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
The mission of Confucius institutes is to strengthen “educational and cultural exchanges and fostering people to people interactions between China and the United States,” according to the Confucius Institute U.S. Center website.
U.S. defense plans could be put at potential risk of being leaked to the Chinese government, as some of the Confucius Institutes may be used for spying reasons, some lawmakers have argued.
“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,” Rubio said, according to Washington Free Beacon.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 20, 2018
On Monday, President Donald Trump signed the John McCain 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that “limits Department of Defense funds for Chinese language programs at universities that host a Confucius Institute unless certain criteria are met.”
The grants were awarded after this bill was written into law.
In February, Rubio wrote a letter encouraging educational institutions with Confucius Institutes that had Chinese government-funded programs to end those partnerships, Politico reported.
“Given China’s aggressive campaign to ‘infiltrate’ American classrooms, stifle free inquiry, and subvert free expression both at home and abroad, I respectfully urge you to consider terminating your Confucius Institute agreement,” Rubio wrote.
“There is mounting concern about the Chinese government’s increasingly aggressive attempts to use ‘Confucius Institutes’ and other means to influence foreign academic institutions and critical analysis of China’s past history and present policies,” he added.
Rubio also mentioned that these Chinese institutions seek to limit conversation and teaching about some historical events and current issues such as the Tienanmen Square Massacre and Tibet’s political status.
Other legislators and officials, such as Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., and Michael Griffin, the undersecretary of defense research and engineering, agree that Chinese involvement in these organizations creates a threat to the security of U.S. defense-related research.
There are over 100 Confucius Institutions at American universities across the country. At least 13 of these American universities are participating in collaborated research for the Department of Defense.
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