OXFORD, Ohio — A Senate subcommittee chaired by Ohio Republican Rob Portman accused Miami University, the University of Kentucky and more than 100 other United States colleges of spreading propaganda through a series of Chinese government-funded programs known as Confucius Institutes.
The institutes teach cooking, dance, language and other aspects of Chinese culture, ostensibly for the purpose of promoting a healthy cultural exchange that can benefit students in a world where China represents a significant global power.
However, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations’s eight-month probe described systemic problems with the institutes that included a lack of transparency and limited academic freedom to criticize the Chinese government.
“They spend about $150 million a year through, really, a propaganda arm of the Chinese government,” Portman said in a hearing.
Miami University assistant provost of global initiatives Cheryl Young told WXVU she did not consider the partnership a problem. Miami has more autonomy within that relationship than critics gave it credit for, she argued, and courses were not handed down from China to the university. (They were instead created by the university and approved by China.)
The subcommittee also found the State Department had improperly issued visas to Confucius Institute teachers from China.
Moreover, according to Portman, the level of access participating universities gave to the Chinese government was far greater than anything China had ever provided to the United States in similar exchanges.
“That level of access can stifle academic freedom and provide students and others exposed to Confucius Institute programming with an incomplete picture of Chinese government actions and policies that run counter to U.S. interests at home and abroad,” he said in a statement. “Absent full transparency regarding how Confucius Institutes operate and full reciprocity for U.S. cultural outreach efforts on college campuses in China, Confucius Institutes should not continue in the United States.”
The subcommittee will hold another hearing about the Confucius Institutes Thursday at 10 a.m.