Here’s how Communist China has managed to infiltrate all levels of U.S. education, from K-12 through university


WASHINGTON, D.C.- In September 2020, Newt Gingrich, former House Speaker, and Claire Christensen, Director of Research and Chinese Studies for Gingrich 360, penned an op-ed calling for the U.S. to step back from its educational relationships with China.

After describing how China has infiltrated educational systems from K-12 through the university level, Gingrich and Christensen pull no punches when they conclude:

“The United States cannot let the Chinese Communist Party transform our prized academic institutions in a system that is submissive to the objectives of China’s totalitarian dictatorship.”

Such a conclusion may appear on its face to be extreme, but the fact of the matter is, such a system of submission is arguably already occurring. Many U.S. educational institutions find themselves financially and academically beholden to China and China’s marching orders.

As we previously reported, China inserts an influential propaganda arm into educational institutions in the form of Confucius Institutes.  Such institutes are ostensibly vehicles for education in Chinese language, history, and culture, but even the Chinese have made no secret of the fact that they are so much more.

Indeed, Chinese government official, Li Changchun, announced publicly in 2011:

“The Confucius Institute is an appealing brand for expanding our culture abroad.”

Li went on to say:

“It has made an important contribution toward improving our soft power. The ‘Confucius’ brand has a natural attractiveness.”

Also, Chinese minister of propaganda, Liu Yunshan, declared in 2010:

“With regard to key issues that influence our sovereignty and safety, we should actively carry out international propaganda battles against issuers such as Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, human rights and Falun Gong…. 

“We should do well in establishing and operating overseas cultural centers and Confucius Institutes.” 

Since 2004, according to a report issued by the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, China has established 525 Confucius Institutes worldwide. 110 of those are in 44 of the 50 United States.

The project is overseen by Hanban, a branch of the Chinese Ministry of Education that is also known as the Office of Chinese Language Council International.  

Hanban reports directly to China’s Ministry of Education.  On Hanban’s executive council sit high ranking state ministry members of bodies such as the General Office of the State Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Confucius Institutes evidently come with an appealing package of funds, personnel, and other perks.

The Senate subcommittee report states:

“Each U.S. school customarily provides its own resources, a physical space for the Confucius Institute, an American Director, and administrative support. 

“Hanban typically provides its funding, a Chinese Director, Chinese teachers, and course materials.

The report goes on to say:

“Confucius Institutes typically receive between $100,000 to $200,000 in start-up funding. 

“After that, Confucius Institutes usually receive similar amounts in annual funding from Hanban, but in some instances are given significantly more.”

Not only do significant amounts of funding change hands, but U.S. schools have evidently been lax in reporting the receipt of such money.  

According to the Senate subcommittee report:

“Current law requires all post-secondary schools to biannually report funding provided by a foreign entity valued at more than $250,000. 

“Nearly seventy percent of U.S. schools with a Confucius Institute that received more than $250,000 in one year failed to properly report that information to the Department of Education.”

Indeed, as we previously reported, Columbia University alone received at least $1 million in unreported funds from China for its Confucius Institute.

A report by the Clarion Project shows that China has donated at least $1.2 billion to American universities.

Such funding and other perks come with many strings attached that fly in the face of academic freedoms typical of schools in the United States.

According to the Senate report, some schools must agree to non-disclosure provisions in their contract with the Confucius Institutes, and perhaps more disturbingly, they must agree by contract to abide by both Chinese and U.S. law.

The Chinese government also hand picks all teachers, events, and speakers.

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The teachers are limited in their scope of teaching in order not to “damage the national interests of China.” 

For instance, the Tiananmen Square massacre and the independence of Taiwan are topics that are entirely off-limits.  In fact, it is explicitly required that any Chinese director or teacher “must ‘conscientiously safeguard [Chinese] national interests.’”  

The Senate subcommittee also found that China does not share with the United States any information on how the directors and teachers of Confucius Institutes are selected It is specifically unknown whether the people filling those positions would meet hiring standards in the United States.

In addition, many Confucius Institute personnel have been found to be in violation of their visa provisions. 

The State Department caught some of these personnel lying about their presence here.  They claimed to be conducting research when, in fact, they were teaching at K-12 schools.

Also, the State Department found that the Confucius Institute director at one school held mock interviews with visa holders in order to coach them about what to say to the State Department about their research.

In conjunction with heavy-handed control of Confucius Institutes in the United States, China has also demonstrated a lack of reciprocity in educational exchanges.

The Senate subcommittee report noted that the U.S. attempted to initiate a sister program called the American Cultural Center (ACC) program in 2010, in which U.S. funding created educational spaces within Chinese partner schools overseas.  The program was intended to promote U.S. culture.

An investigation between 2016 and 2018 found that China interfered with U.S. diplomacy efforts at least 80 times with regards to the ACC facilities.  For instance, some Chinese schools refused to permit State Department officials to attend ACC events.

In other cases, the Chinese government prevented the openings of ACC locations, by requiring permission of the Chinese Communist Party or local governmental officials – permission which was denied.

As a result of these investigations and findings, the State Department ceased all ACC funding in order to assess the program further. Presently there are no plans for additional ACC grants.

In their report, the Senate subcommittee concluded, in part:

“Schools in the United States— from kindergarten to college—have provided a level of access to the Chinese government that the Chinese government has refused to provide to the United States. 

“That level of access can stifle academic freedom and provide students and others exposed to Confucius Institute programming with an incomplete picture of Chinese government actions and policies that run counter to U.S. interests at home and abroad.”

As such, the subcommittee has recommended the following:

“Absent full transparency regarding how Confucius Institutes operate and full reciprocity for U.S. cultural outreach efforts on college campuses in China, Confucius Institutes should not continue in the United States.”

Communist China’s influence on the education of young Americans is not limited to the Confucius Institutes alone, however.

According to the Epoch Times, the College Board, which is the New York-based entity that administers the SAT and AP exams, has partnered with the Chinese Communist Party for over 10 years.

The Epoch Times states that the College Board has:

“worked with the CCP to develop an AP (Advanced Placement) Chinese language and culture course for high schools, helped China gain control over training for Chinese-language teaching in the country, and strongly promoted Beijing-funded Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms.”

According to National Association of Scholars fellow, Rachelle Peterson, China worked behind the scenes for over a decade to infiltrate educational systems in an unwitting United States, via the College Board.

She stated:

“China has managed to build out an entire educational system before the public caught on to what has happened.”

Peterson went on to say:

“It co-opted a prestigious respected name, the College Board, gaining an access it could never have earned outright by working from within organizations that Americans knew and trusted.”

In addition to promoting the development of Confucius Institutes, the College Board also facilitates Communist China’s influence on U.S. education by “corner[ing] the market on Chinese language instruction at the K-12 level in the United States.”

Furthermore, according to Peterson, the College Board works with Hanban on the “Chinese Guest Teacher Program,” which creates a “pipeline of Chinese government-selected teachers flowing into American K–12 schools.”  At least 1650 Chinese teachers have come to the United States via this program since 2006.

As with the case of Confucius Institutes, it appears that money talks, and it apparently carries great weight with the College Board.

Said Peterson:

“The College Board, colleges and universities, other institutions have found it incredibly convenient to be co-opted by the Chinese government because they’re being remunerated handsomely.”

With all the firmly established influence from Communist China in U.S. educational systems, it is no wonder that the U.S. State Department has recently designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center a diplomatic mission.  The Confucius Institute U.S. Center promotes Confucius programs at all educational levels.

With the announcement of this designation came Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s description  of the Confucius Institute U.S. Center as ”an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign on U.S. campuses and K–12 classrooms.”

Pompeo has also recommended that all Confucius Institutes in the United States close by the end of the year 2020, citing “the risk associated with them and the recruitment of spies and collaborators inside of those institutions.”  

In addition, the NAS has echoed Pompeo’s call for closure of Confucius Institutes, and has recommended to Congress that it withhold federal funding from the College Board unless it cuts its ties with the Chinese Communist Party.

China has not been particularly fond of Pompeo’s stance, with China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accusing Pompeo of “oppress[ing] the Confucius Institutes under unfounded pretexts.”

Nevertheless, some Confucius Institutes have indeed scheduled to close, including those hosted at the Community College of Denver, the University of North Carolina Charlotte, the University of Oklahoma, and Emory University.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, 22 universities have cut ties with China in 2020, but nearly 50 were continuing their partnerships as of August.  It remains to be seen whether additional schools, and the College Board, will address the foothold that Communist China has in the U.S. educational system.


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