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FIRST ON FOX: Several Republican legislators they are lobbying Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin over federal funding earmarked for Chinese government-linked colleges and universities.
Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Jim Banks, R-Ind., addressed 56 of his colleagues in the letter to Austin, asking the secretary why federal funds were going to schools tied to the PRC ( CPR).
“During the last administration, Congress finally took major steps to combat China’s illicit influence efforts on American universities, Banks told Fox News Digital in a statement. “When Republicans regain the majority, we will be able to protect the progress we have made. achieved from a president seeking to restore our relations with China to the pre-Trump status quo.”
Lawmakers wrote that they were concerned about the The “influence and infiltration” of the Chinese government in US universities through Confucius Institutes and other partnerships with PRC universities that may pose a national security risk to US universities and US R&D.”
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Banks and Republicans wrote that the presence of Confucius Institutes on American campuses “has long raised serious concerns about the PRC government’s influence and infiltration of our higher education and research systems,” such as the theft of American intellectual property by part of the Chinese government.
“In response to these concerns and potential risks, Congress introduced legislation and passed several laws to address issues related to the PRC’s influence on higher education and research in the United States through Confucius Institutes,” lawmakers wrote.
Lawmakers pointed to the parts of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 and 2021, the massive bill that funds the military, that prohibited federal funds from going to institutions that they housed a Confucius Institute, a pro-Beijing educational organization with ties to the PRC, on campus.
They noted that the 2021 NDAA prohibits “DoD funding for any higher education institution hosting a Confucius Institute after October 1, 2023” and that the “provisions of the bills put pressure on most universities Americans to close Confucius Institutes on their campuses.
“Confucius Institutes, however, are far from dead on our college campuses,” the Republicans wrote. “According to a recent report by the National Association of Scholars, while 104 of the 118 Confucius Institutes on American college campuses have closed, at least 28 universities have replaced the Confucius Institute with a similar program and 58 have maintained partnership with the university. of the People’s Republic of China reached as part of the agreement with the Confucius Institute”.
“The most common reason universities give for closing a Confucius Institute is that they are replacing it with a new partnership program with the PRC,” they continued.
The lawmakers cited the same section of the 2021 NDAA that expanded the definition of a Confucius Institute “as a cultural institute directly or indirectly (emphasis added) financed or materially supported by the Government of the People’s Republic of China.”
They also noted that, when the 2021 NDAA was introduced in Congress, the “International Chinese Language Council Office (better known as Hanban), the parent organization of the Confucius Institute under the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, was renamed quickly as the Center for the Chinese Language”. Exchange and Cooperation in July 2020.”
“It then spun off a separate organization: the China International Education Foundation (CIEF), which now funds and oversees Confucius Institutes and many of its reconstituted programs and institutes,” the Republicans explained.
“CIEF is controlled by the government of the People’s Republic of China, despite its ostensible non-governmental status,” they added. “Any program or cultural institute funded by the CIEF should be considered a Confucius Institute.”
The lawmakers noted that the section of the 2021 NDAA dealing with Confucius Institutes will take effect on October 1, 2023, “two years after the fiscal year 2021 NDAA was enacted.”
“It provides ample time for universities to sever their ties with Confucius Institutes. As such, the Department of Defense must meet the deadline for implementing and enforcing the provisions of Section 1062 after October 1, 2023, and focus their efforts not only in the Confucius Institutes but also in the restructured programs and institutes that continue to serve similar functions and raise similar concerns as the Confucius Institutes,” the letter said.
“However, we have learned that the Department of Defense has awarded funding with contract periods extending beyond October 1, 2023 to some universities, including several major state universities, that have replaced their Confucius Institute with a program or similar institute funded directly, indirectly, or materially supported by the government of the People’s Republic of China,” the letter continues. “According to the recent report by the National Association of Scholars, these universities include, but are not limited to, the University of Michigan, the University of Hawaii Manoa, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, North Carolina State University, the Stony Brook University and the University of Texas at San Antonio.”
The lawmakers wrote that the funding “raises a number of questions about how the Department of Defense will enforce Section 1062 and whether these universities will receive some form of exemption that would allow them to avoid Congressional intent to bar Department of Defense funding for any institution of higher education that houses a Confucius Institute”. noting that a number of Chinese universities associated with US campuses “have already been recognized by the US government as a national security risk to the United States and have been placed on the Commerce Department’s Entity List.”
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Lawmakers provided the secretary with a litany of questions about funding Austin with a deadline of August 15, 2022.
Joining Banks in the letter are 56 of his fellow House Republicans, including House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mike Rodgers of Alabama, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik of New York and Representative Lisa McClain of Michigan.
A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the letter, telling Fox News Digital that as “with all correspondence from Congress, we will respond directly to the authors of the letter.”