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Marsha Blackburn calls out Beijing’s Censorship at American Schools

 

U.S. SenateWashington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R—Tenn.) called out the presence of Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-sponsored Confucius Institutes on American campuses.

In a bicameral letter addressed to U.S. Department of Education (DOE) Secretary Miguel Cardona, Senator Blackburn pushed for censorship-free alternatives to support Mandarin language and Chinese culture initiatives in the U.S., which could be provided by our democratic partner Taiwan.

Senator Marsha Blackburn.

Senator Marsha Blackburn.

“The Taiwan-U.S. Education Initiative will further promote the exchange of students and talent and encourage better understanding between the peoples of Taiwan and the United States. It also ensures academic freedom, a tradition cherished and shared by both our democracies. I appreciate Senator Blackburn and Representative Steel’s leadership on this important issue and look forward to working with the U.S. government for more opportunities to strengthen our people-to-people ties,” said Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan Representative to the United States.

Senator Marsha Blackburn was joined by Senators Kevin Cramer (R—N.D.), Tommy Tuberville (R—Ala.), Mike Braun (R—Ind.), Rick Scott (R—Fla.), Josh Hawley (R—Mo.), and Thom Tillis (R—N.C.) along with Representatives Michelle Park Steel (R—Calif.), Steve Chabot (R—Ohio), Troy Balderson (R—Ohio), Randy K. Weber (R—Texas), Diana Harshbarger (R—Tenn.), Charles J. Fleischmann (R—Tenn.), Ken Calvert (R—Calif.), Doug LaMalfa (R—Calif.), James R. Baird (R—Ind.) Eric A. “Rick” Crawford (R—Ark.), Mo Brooks (R—Ala.), Young Kim (R—Calif.), Lisa McClain (R—Mich.), and Paul Gosar, D.D.S. (R—Ariz.).

Beijing-sponsored Confucius Institutes censor free speech:

Confucius Institutes receive funding and oversight primarily from the Hanban, an affiliate of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Ministry of Education. Many recent studies provide examples of PRC officials pressuring faculty at Confucius Institutes to avoid making statements or holding events on topics that officials consider to be in conflict with the PRC’s national interests. 

Expanding the U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative limits the PRC’s influence:  

The U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative is an exemplary program, for it seeks to increase opportunities for American students to learn Mandarin, while abiding by the U.S. and Taiwan’s shared commitment to academic freedom. DOE could expand the U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative to provide a censorship-free alternative to Confucius Institutes.

You can read the full letter to Education Secretary Cardona here.

Dear Secretary Cardona:

We write to bring your attention to concerns regarding the presence of Confucius Institutes at American institutions of higher education (IHEs). We urge the Department of Education (DOE) to explore censorship-free alternatives to support the instruction of Mandarin language and Chinese culture, specifically those offered by Taiwan.

Confucius Institutes operate at 55 American colleges and universities, ostensibly to promote the study of Mandarin language and Chinese culture. Confucius Institutes receive funding and oversight primarily from the Hanban, an affiliate of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Ministry of Education. Many recent studies provide examples of PRC officials pressuring faculty at Confucius Institutes to avoid making statements or holding events on topics that officials consider to be in conflict with the PRC’s national interests. For these reasons, in August 2020, the State Department designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center (CIUS) as a foreign mission to the PRC. The Hanban has since attempted to avoid this designation by rebranding Confucius Institutes under the guise of an “International Education Foundation,” but it remains unacceptable for the PRC to fund any instruction at American IHEs.

 


 

As IHEs take prudent steps to mitigate the malign aspects of Confucius Institutes – often through their closure – in a globalized world, there remains high student demand for studies relating to Mandarin language and Chinese culture and history. Taiwan can help the U.S. meet that demand. “Learning Mandarin from Taiwanese teachers means learning Mandarin in an environment free from censorship or coercion,” according to the Director of the American Institute in Taiwan.

The U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative is an exemplary program, for it seeks to increase opportunities for American students to learn Mandarin, while abiding by the U.S. and Taiwan’s shared commitment to academic freedom. We assess that DOE could expand the U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative to provide a censorship-free alternative to Confucius Institutes. We also encourage DOE to consider working with Taipei to expand additional educational programs, or to develop new programs, that support the study of Mandarin language and Chinese culture through in-person and virtual settings.

Cross-cultural learning opportunities remain critical not only to the enrichment of the humanities, but also to our national security. We look forward to supporting your efforts to promote the studies of world languages and cultures, while ensuring academic freedom at our IHEs.


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