The U.S. State Department has designated the Confucius Institute U.S. (CIUS) Center, in Washington, DC, as a diplomatic mission, which will require it to regularly provide information to the State Department about its Chinese personnel, recruiting, funding, and operations in the U.S.
The headquarters CIUS manages and provides funding for Chinese-language teachers and classes across the country, including university-level classes operated out of 75 Confucius Institute, and K-12 classes run through about 500 Confucius Classrooms. A few weeks ago, Language Magazine reported on the Chinese ministry of education moving to rebrand the institutes and refocus on language teaching.
In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said:
“The Trump Administration has made it a priority to seek fair and reciprocal treatment from the People’s Republic of China. For more than four decades, Beijing has enjoyed free and open access to U.S. society, while denying that same access to Americans and other foreigners in China. Furthermore, the PRC has taken advantage of America’s openness to undertake large scale and well-funded propaganda efforts and influence operations in this country.
“Today, the Department of State designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center as a foreign mission of the PRC, recognizing CIUS for what it is: an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign on U.S. campuses and K-12 classrooms. Confucius Institutes are funded by the PRC and part of the Chinese Communist Party’s global influence and propaganda apparatus.
“The goal of these actions is simple: to ensure that American educators and school administrators can make informed choices about whether these CCP-backed programs should be allowed to continue, and if so, in what fashion. Universities around the country and around the world are examining the Confucius Institutes’ curriculum and the scope of Beijing’s influence in their education systems. The United States wants to ensure that students on U.S. campuses have access to Chinese language and cultural offerings free from the manipulation of the Chinese Communist Party and its proxies.”
Over the past few years, over 30 colleges and universities in the U.S. have decided to break ties and close their Confucius Institutes, as teachers and administrators have debated whether teachers in the Confucius Institutes or their educational material help disseminate Chinese government propaganda. Academic freedom has also been questioned. Universities in other countries have also closed their Confucius Institutes or are demanding greater transparency from them.
David R. Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, said that the U.S. government would work with American educational institutions to “look for other opportunities for Chinese language training and instruction” during a call with reporters, adding, “We think at this point, it’s even more important that Americans study Chinese language, understand Chinese culture and work to establish a truly reciprocal relationship on both sides of the Pacific.”