For years, Communist China has conducted a multifaceted espionage operation within the U.S. and tried to exert influence in our country. Most conspicuously, Beijing has done this by pumping propaganda into American college classrooms through their seemingly benign Confucius Institutes. Beijing’s spy operations are part and parcel of their campaign to destabilize the U.S. and forward the interests of the New Axis of Evil. It’s time we confront the threat posed by China and the New Axis of Evil head-on and simultaneously strengthen our relationship with freedom-loving Taiwan.
Beijing has spied on the U.S. through a variety of means – from sending operatives to U.S. military sites to purchasing land near sensitive military locations to setting up Confucius Institutes on college campuses. Earlier this year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) flew a spy balloon over the U.S. for an entire week, collecting information from sensitive U.S. military sites. Meanwhile, thousands of Chinese nationals, some of whom are connected to the CCP, are flooding our southern border, posing another major national security risk. Given this threat, in September, I co-introduced the No Asylum for CCP Spies Act to ban anyone affiliated with the CCP or any other authoritarian or communist political party from being granted asylum in the U.S. China is also using social media to gain an intelligence advantage. Chinese-owned TikTok, which stores certain user data in China, is collecting data on Americans every day, posing a national security risk.
Confucius Institutes, which are bankrolled by the Chinese government, serve as a way to indoctrinate American students in Chinese propaganda and have been used to censor discussion of certain topics on campus that are unfavorable to the CCP’s preferred narrative. The Chinese government has funneled over $158 million into American schools since 2006 for a reason – they are seeking to control the way China is portrayed on campus and stifle dissenting voices. Beijing doesn’t want the next generation of Americans to know the truth about the CCP’s history of human rights abuses and tyranny.
Confucius Institutes have idolized murderous dictator Mao Zedong as a hero and erased the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre from history. These institutes also despicably omit China’s human rights abuses and discuss Taiwan and Tibet as parts of China rather than sovereign countries. In 2020, under President Trump, the State Department designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center as a “foreign mission” of the Chinese government and highlighted the CCP’s use of these institutes to disseminate party propaganda “on U.S. campuses and K-12 classrooms.” Thus, while there were more than 100 of these institutes in 2017, there are now only 10 as of early 2023. Those remaining should be shut down immediately.
The CCP itself has admitted the true intent behind Confucius Institutes: in 2009, Li Changchun, then the head of propaganda for the CCP and a member of the party’s Politburo Standing Committee, stated that Confucius Institutes were an “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up.” Unfortunately, Beijing is trying to circumvent scrutiny of Confucius Institutes by reopening and rebranding them under another name. As of 2022, at least 64 colleges and universities have reopened a similar program under a different name or have maintained ties with the Chinese entities that cosponsored the Confucius Institutes. These rebranded programs should be treated with the same amount of suspicion as their Confucius Institute counterparts, and the Biden administration should encourage schools to close them.
While combating Chinese espionage is essential, it is imperative we provide other ways students can study culture, history, and language without censorship or coercion. In 2021, I brought attention to the danger posed by these institutes and sent a letter to Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona asking him to expand the U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative by replacing Confucius Institutes with a Taiwanese alternative. Last month, I introduced a resolution, along with Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), to support the U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative and encourage more colleges and universities to partner with Taiwan to establish highly sought-after Mandarin programs.
Tackling the CCP spy apparatus is necessary but insufficient. The path to combating Communist China runs through boosting the U.S.-Taiwan relationship. With Beijing’s increasing aggression against the island nation, we must have Taipei’s back. By keeping Taiwan a free and democratic nation, the U.S. can continue to maintain the upper hand over the New Axis of Evil. Thwarting the New Axis of Evil’s global ambitions begins not only with hampering China’s spy regime within our country but also with strengthening our valuable bond with Taiwan.