How Red China is Influencing North Carolina Education

The extent to which China has spread its influence into American institutions of higher learning has been one of the biggest stories in recent years.

In recent years, a number of academics and researchers have been charged for their connections to the Chinese government.

Of the most high-profile cases of American academics colluding with China, the case of Charles Lieber has caught national attention. Lieber, the chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, was charged and indicted on June 9 for making false statements to federal authorities concerning his involvement in China’s Thousand Talents Program.

In early June, an investigation by the National Institute of Health led to 54 firings and resignations. The investigation was launched in 2018. According to Michael Lauer, NIH’s head of extramural research, 93 percent of those cases involved undisclosed funding of Chinese origin.

These investigations have been going on for a while, but the Wuhan virus outbreak has made these issues prominent. The House Oversight and Reform Committee was in the process of investigating Wuhan virus propaganda campaigns by China and has already stepped up its efforts in early May. Republican leaders sent U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos a letter which demanded information regarding the Chinese Communist Party’s investment in American universities as a means of expanding its influence.

The establishment of Confucius Institutes in 2004 has allowed the CCP to enter institutes of higher education in the U.S. They have expanded across the world by providing language courses and similar cultural material that tends to downplay the human rights abuses and overall history of suppression the Chinese government has been involved during the last century.

Although the C.I.’s offerings appear harmless, they are actually ran by the Hanban, an entity that receives funding and tutelage from the Chinese government’s Ministry of Education. The Hanban also determines the compensation and screening process for those who end up becoming teachers for these institutes.

According to a 2017 report by the National Association of Scholars, the C.I.s were described as “weapons of soft power” which comply with Chinese law, avoid mentioning Chinese political history and human rights abuses, implement China’s restrictions on free speech, and “portray Taiwan and Tibet as undisputed territories of China.”

According to North State Journal, “As of May, there are around 81 C.I.’s operating in the United States and one still operating in North Carolina — The University of North Carolina at Charlotte.”

UNC Charlotte started running back in 2017. The institute in question was running in Pfeiffer University, but shut its doors in 2016 and then moved to UNC Charlotte.

Buffie Stephens, director of issues management and external media relations at UNC Charlotte, told North State Journal that the C.I. is “governed by a board of directors that is chaired by the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.” In addition, he noted that the institute has a campus advisory council compromised of UNC Charlotte faculty and staff.

“UNC Charlotte controls all curriculum and other academic matters at the university, and the C.I. does not offer any for-credit classes,” Stephens said in an email message with North State Journal.

“Teaching assistants in the C.I. are not instructors of record at the university,” Stephens commented. “They work under the direction of UNC Charlotte faculty in our classrooms — providing services such as being conversation partners — and work under the oversight of teachers in K-12 schools, governed by those schools. They also help with cultural events.”

When questioned about how UNC Charlotte receives Hanban funding, Stephens recounted that the Hanban funded the creation of the institute with “start-up expenses of $150,000” back in 2017. In 2018, the Hanban allocated an additional $70,000 in operating support and an “additional $30,000 to support K-12 schools directly.”

According to Stephens, the C.I. was the recipient of an additional $107,150 in operating support and another $40,000 to aid K-12 schools directly back in 2019.

“UNC Charlotte has not received more than $150,000 of support from Hanban in any given year. Consistent with Section 117 of the Higher Education Act, UNC Charlotte reports to the federal government all gifts from or contracts with a foreign source valued at $250,000 or more in a year,” Stephens commented.

The rise of China is one of the largest political questions of our time.

To curb Chinese influence, the U.S. will need to shutdown all Confucius Institutes within its borders.

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