Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn is attempting to stop Chinese Communist Party efforts to push their agenda on American university campuses throughout Confucius Institutes, which suppress free speech and undermine transparency.
Congressional pressure had led to the shutdown of many Institutes, yet many are still open. Senator Blackburn is leading the effort to have existing Confucius Institutes in America comply with “standards of transparency and academic freedom.”
“The Chinese government has no right to influence American education the way Confucius Institutes have for the past sixteen years,” commented Senator Blackburn. “Those studying Chinese culture and language at schools like University of Memphis and Middle Tennessee State University ought to be alarmed that the Chinese government has made itself at home in their institutions.”
“Confucius Institutes as they currently operate are an affront to academic freedom, and we should not bow to repressive Chinese propaganda systems. It is time to put some serious distance between Confucius Institutes and American Universities,” Senator Blackburn commented.
Senator Blackburn introduced the Transparency for Confucius Institutes Act that mandates program participation agreements between Confucius Institutes and American institutions that feature them to tackle the various means China uses to exert disproportionate influence on campuses
Senators Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, Rick Scott, James Lankford, Mike Lee and Marco Rubio have joined Blackburn in pushing this legislation.
According to Clarksville Online, this legislation creates the following institutions:
Clearly delineating between the Confucius Institutes’ programs and their own Chinese language programs;
Locating an Institute apart from Chinese language, history, and cultural programs;
Removing the Chinese assistant director position from Institutes;
Subjecting the staff and professors to appropriate background checks;
Making the agreements publicly available online;
Removing the confidentiality section of agreements;
Including stronger language in the agreements to make it clearer that the U.S. school has executive decision-making authority.
“We know the Chinese Communist Party is using Confucius Institutes as a way to create influence on our college campuses. This is the right step in making it clear that Confucius Institutes are not independent centers of learning, but instruments of Beijing’s overseas propaganda machine,” declared Senator Hawley.
“China funds Confucius Institutes on American college campuses to stifle criticism of atrocities like the Tiananmen Square Massacre and indoctrinate our kids with the party line,” remarked Senator Cotton. “Our bill would give American students, faculty, and administrators more power to resist the Confucius Institutes’ propaganda and pressure campaigns.”
“We know Communist China is stealing our technology and trying to compete with us on the global stage,” Senator Rick Scott commented. “The Transparency for Confucius Institutes Act will curb the negative influence of Confucius Institutes to protect our universities and our national security.”
“The Confucius Institutes are directly funded and overseen by the Communist Party of China (CPC), whose suppression of human rights and malign activities around the world warrant a strong response from the US,” stated Senator Lankford. “The fact that they are invited onto numerous college campuses around the US is concerning and should be addressed. This bill takes steps to ensure China is not promoting propaganda or political censorship on campuses under the guise of the seemingly innocuous Confucius Institutes. The bill also ensures China cannot unduly influence and pressure decisions at our universities because of the presence of a Confucius Institute. The US wants a constructive relationship with China, but the lack of transparency around Confucius Institutes inhibits our ability to do that.”
“No foreign government should have the ability to pressure U.S. institutions of higher education to change their curriculum or suppress politically sensitive content. At many schools, Confucius Institutes have acted as extensions of the Chinese Communist Party,” declared Senator Lee. “The U.S. federal government has a duty to conduct careful oversight of foreign programs to protect our students from undue influence or foreign propaganda. These measures ensure that the agreements that our colleges and universities enter into are transparent both to the government and to the American people.”
“For far too long, the Communist Chinese government has attempted to infiltrate American universities through the disguise of the government-run Confucius Institute,” Senator Rubio noted. “I’ve repeatedly raised concerns and educated universities, including those throughout Florida, that have had these agreements in place. This bill adds needed pressure on Confucius Institutes, and pushes universities to take responsibility in a way that’s consistent with American and democratic values.”
Chinese officials have recently exerted pressure on faculty at U.S. universities that host Confucius Institutes to avoid making declarations or celebrating events on politically sensitive matters. Chinese teachers at these institutes enter contracts with the Government of China where they promise to not get in the way of national interests. These limitations on free speech reflect a form of soft power that China uses to move its national interests at the detriment of America.
Will Josh Hawley be the Next Champion for an America First Foreign Policy?
America First May Have its Next Leader to End Wars Abroad
Does America First have a new non-interventionist champion?
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has been viewed by many as one of the figures who could potentially lead a Trumpist movement after Trump, should Joe Biden end up being installed as president on January 2021.
Hawley has made a name for himself as a champion of Middle America and questioning the neoliberal orthodoxy on immigration and trade. Lately, Hawley has made a pivot towards questioning the interventionist conventional wisdom on foreign policy.
In early October of this year, the Missouri Senator called for the American government to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Hawley tweeted, “Almost 20 years now in Afghanistan. Long past time to draw this war to an end.”
Hawley’s foreign policy has been a work progress over the past two years. During a 2019 speech Hawley gave at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), he questioned the nation-building policy prescriptions of previous administrations, demonstrating some degree of skepticism towards non-stop interventionism abroad on the part of the Senator.
That said, it remains to be seen if Hawley’s legislative record will fully match his rhetoric.
Hawley is a staunch China hawk, who fears the rise of China and is a strong voice against China’s expansionist efforts. Hawley’s track record shows that his foreign policy views are rough around the edges. Daniel Larison of The American Conservative is not as optimistic about Hawley judging by his votes on the Yemeni Civil War. Larison cited several of Hawley’s votes that may be cause for concern:
“Sen. Hawley voted against the Senate’s resolution of disapproval that opposed the president’s effort to circumvent Congress with a bogus “emergency” to expedite arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. More important, he voted with the president and most Senate Republicans against the antiwar Yemen resolution that would have cut off all U.S. support to the Saudi coalition.”
Nevertheless, Hawley’s comments on Afghanistan are a good sign that Hawley is catching on to the fact that Americans are tired of foreign wars. Politicians can change their views and behaviors. Hawley is likely recognizing that the America First movement is exhausted by the endless wars and wants candidates and elected officials who offer withdrawal plans.
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) November 24, 2020
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, a fierce interventionist skeptic, maintained cautious optimism about Hawley. In a tweet, he commented, “All kinds of reasons to be skeptical of the authenticity here, but — purely as a matter of rhetoric — just imagine any national Republican speaking this way about a Dem administration even 10 years ago. The framework of politics is radically shifting.”
All kinds of reasons to be skeptical of the authenticity here, but — purely as a matter of rhetoric — just imagine any national Republican speaking this way about a Dem administration even 10 years ago. The framework of politics is radically shifting:https://t.co/0g3jpVPsDm
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 24, 2020
The jury is still out on Hawley. Regardless of flaws in his voting record, America First advocates should continue to push him and other America First leaning Republicans in the right direction. We should never forget that politicians are still receptive to political pressure and the grassroots holds the keys to political change.
Young senators like Hawley are the future of American politics and it makes sense for foreign policy restrainers to lobby them and push them in a direction that favors non-interventionism.
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