In what could be a silver lining for Republicans, President Biden’s CIA director pick is against having Confucius Institute programs included in U.S. public schools and universities.
William Burns is the former State Department diplomat to Russia, and speaking to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said, “I think what the Confucius Institutes do, and I’m no expert on them, is to promote a narrative of Xi Jinping’s China, which is designed to build sympathy for what is, in my view, a quite aggressive leadership, which is engaged in conduct, and conducted, an adversarial approach to relations with the United States.
“So in that sense, that particular dimension of foreign influence operations constitutes a genuine risk,” he added. “And so my advice for any institutions in the United States, including academic institutions, is to be extraordinarily careful of what the motives are for a variety of institutions like that and to be very careful in engaging them,” reported Fox News.
GOP lawmakers could feel relief after Burns’s warnings and may see Biden’s attitude toward China not as soft as previously thought.
Confucius Institutes, on the surface, appear as learning programs for students outside of China, with emphasis on the Chinese language and culture. However, they have significant funding from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and are a cover for its propaganda against the West and distorting the truth.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Education Secretary Betsy Devos issued warnings in October to schools in all 50 states from preschool to university level. The CCP was running a “global influence campaign,” reported Fox News.
Burns said in his written responses before the committee’s hearing, “Beijing tries to advance its soft power and pro-China propaganda through cultural and educational programs at U.S. academic institutions. Programs such as Confucius Institutes fund Chinese-language learning and provide the CCP direct access to university officials. Beijing uses this access to spread positive portrayals of China and steer conversations from topics sensitive to the CCP.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Mass.) asked Burns if he recommended closing all Confucius Institutes, and Burns replied, “If I were president of a college or university and had a Confucius Institute, that’s certainly what I would do.”
Burns told the committee Chinese leader Xi’s actions over the past few years served as a “very sharp wake-up call” and that he is very much aware of CCP’s push for power and world dominance.
Chinese spokesman Zhao Lijian urged the United States to “abandon the zero-sum game mindset” during a Thursday press conference.
“Over the past few years, out of political purposes, the former U.S. administration made severe miscalculations and misinterpretations on China’s goals and policies,” he told reporters. He added that the CCP hopes the Biden administration will “adopt positive, constructive China policies.”