Rep. Jim Banks Demands Answers on DOD’s Waiver Plan for Colleges Hosting Confucius Institutes

Dorothy Li
By Dorothy Li
May 1, 2023US News

Rep. Jim Banks  (R-Ind.) expressed concerns to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) over its waiver plan that allows U.S. colleges to receive DOD grants while hosting Beijing-funded Confucius Institutes (CIs).

“CIs act as agents of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on U.S. campuses, spreading Party propaganda, monitoring students and dissidents, and providing China a launching pad for espionage against our nation’s most valuable research and technology,” Banks wrote in the letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin dated April 21.

A section of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the congressman stated, bars U.S. institutions of higher education to host Confucius Institute programming after October 2023. Otherwise, colleges would lose eligibility for federal funding from the Defense Department. Banks said the provision of the legislation is the “removal of all CIs from U.S. campuses and to remove the espionage threat which CIs pose to DOD-sponsored research and development (R&D).”

However, the Defense Department adopted new waiver criteria (pdf) last month, offering conditions “by which a U.S. university may receive DOD funds without closing any Confucius Institutes on campus,” Banks said in the letter, which was first reported by Fox News.

“While the guidance imposes some restrictions on CIs for colleges to qualify for waivers, it also introduces significant loopholes and fails to take seriously the threat posed by CIs to national security,” Banks wrote.

Billed as Chinese language, culture, and history centers, CIs are funded and supervised by the Chinese authorities, and have “longstanding and formal ties” (pdf) to the CCP’s foreign influence operations, according to a 2018 report by the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission.

The Chinese regime poured more than $158 million (pdf) into over 100 U.S. colleges through CIs, according to a 2019 report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

CIs have come under increasing scrutiny from U.S. officials over their roles in encroaching on academic freedom and facilitating the CCP’s intellectual property theft, leading to a spat of colleges shutting down the program in recent years.

There are currently 13 CIs remaining opening in the United States, according to a March report by the National Association of Scholars, a conservative research organization.

Banks said in the letter that the DOD’s new waiver program provides “to continue operating with CIs can theoretically last for an unlimited duration. Per the guidance, DOD also relies on the host universities, which often want to preserve their Confucius Institutes, to notify DOD of any changes to their contract with their CI before DOD reviews their waivers.”

Banks goes on to explain that “the waiver guidance also requires universities with CIs to report the foreign travel of any staff involved in R&D but does not require any foreign travel reporting for Confucius Institute employees. While the guidance restricts some Confucius Institute employees from accessing any federally funded scientific data, it does not restrict CI employees from accessing this research if they are also employees of the host university.”

Much of the new waiver plan was derived from a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, according to Banks. He criticized the move as “bowing to the wishes of academia and the scientific community to continue their deep ties with China, despite the growing threat of CCP propaganda and espionage.”

Banks also provided Austin with a list of questions regarding the DOD’s waiver guidelines, setting a deadline of May 10.

The Epoch Times has reached out to the DOD for comment.

From The Epoch Times

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