Chinese government-funded language and culture centres known as Confucius Institutes have rapidly closed down across the United States over the past four years amid pressure from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Department of State, the US Congress, and state legislatures, concerned about China’s influence on universities.
Of 118 Confucius Institutes that existed in the US, 104 closed by the end of 2021 or are in the process of doing so.
Many institutions were forced to refund money to the Chinese government – sometimes in excess of US$1 million – according to a new wide-ranging report on Confucius Institutes (CIs) in the US by the National Association of Scholars, which was among the first to call for the closure of all Confucius Institutes on US campuses before the US Senate in 2019 called for greater transparency or closure.
However, “many once-defunct Confucius Institutes have since reappeared in other forms”, according to the association’s just-released report, After Confucius Institutes: China’s enduring influence on American higher education. It adds: “The single most popular reason institutions give when they close a CI is to replace it with a new Chinese partnership programme.”
US institutions “have entered new sister university agreements with Chinese universities, established ‘new’ centres closely modelled on defunct Confucius Institutes, and even continued to receive funding from the same Chinese government agencies that funded the Confucius Institutes,” it said.