WASHINGTON – Sen.
Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is calling on
the Biden Administration to explain its plans to cancel new transparency
measures related to Confucius Institutes, which the U.S. intelligence community
asserts is a part of the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda arm. In a letter
today to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Grassley outlines a
lengthy record of congressional oversight and warnings from federal officials
about China’s use of Confucius Institutes to seed pro-china sentiments in the
Government agencies, including within the Intelligence Community, have clearly
asserted that the communist Chinese government uses Confucius Institutes
embedded in our academic institutions as a propaganda tool within the United
States. Accordingly, withdrawing the rule is cause for serious concern and
weakens our ability to detect and deter foreign influence efforts by the
communist Chinese government,” Grassley
extremely concerning that the Biden administration has withdrawn the proposed
rule that would have required schools to disclose their relationship with
Confucius Institutes. The American public, and most importantly parents, should
be able to know whether or not the school their child attends has a
relationship with a Chinese government propaganda machine.”
has frequently warned of the risk China poses to American education and research
institutions. This includes pro-China
, challenges to academic freedom and security
of taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property
. In 2020, Grassley
encouraged all schools with an active Confucius Institute
to seek an
FBI briefing on how China uses the institutes to seed pro-China sentiments
within U.S. academia. As a result of those letters, the FBI held a
teleconference with 44 schools. On the call, the FBI echoed Grassley’s
warning and discussed how China is actively using its connections with U.S.
research centers and potential cyber intrusions to monitor America’s response
to the coronavirus pandemic and research efforts to develop treatments.
letter responds to the Biden Administration’s plans to withdraw a Trump
administration proposed rule requiring schools and universities to disclose
their financial ties to Confucius Institutes.
VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas
of Homeland Security
to news reports, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has withdrawn a proposed
Trump administration rule titled, “Establishing Requirement for Student and
Exchange Visitor Program Certified Schools to Disclose Agreements with
Confucius Institutes and Classrooms.”
That proposed rule would have required universities and K-12 schools to
disclose their financial ties to Confucius Institutes.
U.S. Government agencies, including within
the Intelligence Community, have clearly asserted that the communist Chinese government
uses Confucius Institutes embedded in our academic institutions as a propaganda
tool within the United States.
Accordingly, withdrawing the rule is cause
for serious concern and weakens our ability to detect and deter foreign
influence efforts by the communist Chinese government. DHS must explain whether it will re-submit
the rule and what steps it has taken to detect and deter communist Chinese
government influence activity within our academic environment.
in April 2015, I engaged in oversight activity of the federal government’s
response to foreign influence efforts.
That oversight activity has included a review
of the government’s application of the Foreign Agents Registration Act as well
as the role Confucius Institutes have played in the Chinese government’s
attempts to spread communist propaganda throughout our academic environment.
staff have received classified and unclassified briefings outlining the threats
posed by the Chinese Government generally, and Confucius Institutes
specifically. Based upon information
gathered from unclassified briefings, we know that Confucius Institutes are an
arm of the Chinese Government and are overseen by the Office of Chinese
Language International (Hanban), which is part of the Chinese Ministry of
Education. The Hanban is composed of members
from twelve state ministries including its propaganda outlets.
Confucius Institutes are also reportedly
funded by the United Front Work Department, a Chinese Government agency that
coordinates foreign influence operations.
The activities of Confucius Institutes are
inherently political in nature and intended to influence U.S. policy and public
government entity, Confucius Institutes are controlled and managed by government
officials and act as a mouthpiece for the Chinese Government. In 2011, Li Changchun, a member of the
Chinese Government, stated:
The Confucius Institute is an
appealing brand for expanding our culture abroad. It has made an important contribution toward
improving our soft power. The
‘Confucius’ brand has a natural attractiveness.
Using the excuse of teaching Chinese language, everything looks
reasonable and logical.
same individual also said that Confucius Institutes are an “important part of
China’s overseas propaganda set-up.”
Not surprisingly, a member of China’s
propaganda ministry reportedly said:
Coordinate the efforts
overseas and domestic propaganda, further create a favorable international
environment for us…[w]ith regard to key issues that influence our sovereignty
and safety, we should actively carry out international propaganda battles
against issues such as Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, Human Rights, and Falun
Gong. Our strategy is to proactively
take our culture abroad…[w]e should do well in establishing and operating
overseas cultural centers and Confucius Institutes.
light of these concerns, I wrote to dozens of schools in March 2020 that had a
Confucius Institute on campus and requested that they receive a briefing from
the FBI on the threats the Institutes cause to the academic environment.
I also wrote a letter to DOJ in September 2018 asking why it had yet to require
officials connected to Confucius Institutes to register as foreign agents under
the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
That law is critical to identifying agents
operating within the United States on behalf of foreign principals, and last
Congress I reintroduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the law, the
Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act (S. 1762).
In addition, in December 2018, I convened a
hearing as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee regarding China’s
non-traditional espionage against the United States.
In that hearing, DOJ and FBI officials made
clear that the threat to our universities and taxpayer-funded research from
foreign governments is known and ongoing.
For example, the DOJ witness, Assistant Attorney General for National
Security John Demers, stated, “we need to adapt our enforcement strategy to
reach non-traditional collectors, including researchers in labs, universities,
and the defense industrial base, some of whom may have undisclosed ties to
Chinese institutions and conflicted loyalties.”
The FBI witness, then-Assistant Director for
the Counterintelligence Division Bill Priestap, stated that China’s talent
recruitment programs are effectively “brain gain programs” that “encourage
theft of intellectual property from U.S. institutions.”
may also be aware that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal
Year 2021 included a provision that addresses Congress’s distrust of China’s
role within Confucius Institutes on American campuses.
Specifically, it places limitations on federal
funds that can be provided to an academic institution that hosts a Confucius
concerns are echoed by academic associations and many institutions that have
already discontinued their affiliation with Confucius Institutes. Both the American Association of University
Professors and the National Association of Scholars have independently detailed
how Confucius Institutes restrict academic freedom and promote an agenda
tailored by the Chinese Government for the benefit of the Chinese Communist
In response to a variety of concerns over
affronts to academic freedom, and the direct control of Confucius Institutes by
the Chinese Government, dozens of Confucius Institutes within the United States
have been expelled from institutions of higher education.
it’s extremely concerning that the Biden administration has withdrawn the
proposed rule that would have required schools to disclose their relationship
with Confucius Institutes. The American
public, and most importantly parents, should be able to know whether or not the
school their child attends has a relationship with a Chinese government
propaganda machine. No later than
February 25, 2021, please provide answers to the following:
- Does DHS plan to re-introduce the same rule or a
similar rule? If so, when? If not, why not?
- Does DHS consider Confucius Institutes and Classrooms
to be an extension of the communist Chinese government? If not, why not?
- Does DHS consider Confucius Institutes and Classrooms
to be purveyors of communist Chinese government propaganda? If not, why
- What steps has DHS taken to detect and deter communist
Chinese government efforts to infiltrate our academic environment and
anticipate that your written reply and most responsive documents will be
unclassified. Please send all unclassified material directly to the committee.
In keeping with the requirements of Executive Order 13526, if any of the
responsive documents do contain classified information, please segregate all
unclassified material within the classified documents, provide all unclassified
information directly to the committee, and provide a classified addendum to the
Office of Senate Security. Although the committee complies with all laws and
regulations governing the handling of classified information, it is not bound,
absent its prior agreement, by any handling restrictions.
addition to the questions, please provide a briefing to my staff about these
issues. Should you have questions,
please contact Joshua Flynn-Brown of my committee staff at 202-224-5225. Thank you for your attention to this important
on the Judiciary
Thomas Lum, Cong.
Research Serv., IF11180, Confucius Institutes in the United States: Selected
Issues (2019), available at https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF11180
; Ethan Epstein, How China Infiltrated U.S. Classrooms
Politico (Jan. 17, 2018), available at https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/16/how-china-infiltrated-us-classrooms-216327
; Eric Shawn, China trying to infiltrate US colleges to
recruit spies, indoctrinate students, intelligence agencies say
, Fox News
(Feb. 7, 2019), available at https://www.foxnews.com/us/china-infiltrating-us-colleges-to-recruit-spies-indoctrinate-students-intelligence-agencies-say
Peterson, American Universities Are
Welcoming China’s Trojan Horse
, Foreign Policy (May 9, 2017), available at https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/09/american-universities-are-welcoming-chinas-trojan-horse-confucius-institutes/
Hearing on Foreign
Threats to Taxpayer-Funded Research, Comm.
Cong. (2019), available at https://www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/foreign-threats-to-taxpayer_funded-research-oversight-opportunities-and-policy-solutions
; Letter from
Senator Grassley, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, to the Honorable Jeff
Sessions, Attorney General, Dep’t of Justice (Sept. 19, 2018), available at https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-presses-doj-fara-and-china-s-activity-us-education-system
; Senator Grassley,
Iowa not immune to foreign threats to
3, 2019), available at https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/commentary/grassley-op-ed-iowa-not-immune-foreign-threats-taxpayer-funded-research
China’s Impact on the U.S. Education
System Hearing Before the Permanent Subcomm. on Investigations
(2019), available at https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/subcommittees/investigations/hearings/chinas-impact-on-the-us-education-system
Marshall Sahlins, Confucius Institutes: Academic Malware
The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 12,
Issue 46 (Nov. 16, 2014), available at
at 8 (statement of John Demers, Assistant Att’y Gen., Department of Justice), https://www.judiciary