The U.S. State Department could move as early as Thursday to announce that Chinese “Confucius institutes” will be required to register as foreign agents, Bloomberg reported.
Confucius institutes are Chinese government-funded centers on college campuses in the U.S. and throughout the world, whose stated aim is to promote knowledge of Chinese language and culture. However, U.S. agencies and elected officials have warned that the institutes serve as propaganda centers used by China to project soft power abroad.
The State Department’s reported decision would label the institutes as “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by a foreign entity. Earlier this year, the State Department applied the same designation to various Chinese state media outlets, including the People’s Daily, Xinhua News Agency, and China Global Television Network.
There are roughly 100 Confucius institutes currently operating in the U.S., some of which have closed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The national leadership of U.S. college Republicans and Democrats have called for all such institutes to be closed, citing the Chinese government’s human rights abuses.
The institutes are one aspect of what U.S. officials see as a Chinese campaign of influence at American universities. Republicans on the House Oversight Committee in May launched a probe of foreign funding at American universities, with ranking member Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) saying “We cannot allow a dangerous communist regime to buy access to our institutions of higher education, plain and simple.” A separate probe by the Department of Education has uncovered at least $6 billion in unreported donations to various universities from foreign governments.