In February, CIA Director Burns told Senator Collins that a Confucius Institute ‘constitutes a genuine risk’ and he would shut it down if he were a university president
Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins applauded the decision by the University of Maine System to close its Confucius Institute on the University of Southern Maine campus. Chinese language courses will continue to be offered to students, and USM will maintain its direct partnership with the Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in Dalian, China.
Confucius Institutes are sponsored and financed by the Chinese Communist Party, and they often apply pressure against free speech and academic freedom as well as promote the Chinese government’s worldview. For those reasons, Senator Collins has strongly opposed the spread of Confucius Institutes on college campuses. In February, Senator Collins raised the issue of Confucius Institutes at the confirmation hearing for CIA Director William Burns. In addition, in March, she supported the Senate’s passage of the CONFUCIUS Act, which would grant full managerial authority over Confucius Institutes to the universities that host them.
“The Chinese Communist Party uses Confucius Institutes as backdoors to spread their propaganda and undermine constitutional freedoms on college campuses as well as in the wider community,” said Senator Collins. “The University of Maine System made the right choice to close the Confucius Institute on its USM campus.”
At the confirmation hearing for CIA Director Burns in February, Senator Collins asked him to elaborate on the goals of Confucius Institutes.
Director Burns responded that Confucius Institutes “promote a narrative of Xi Jinping's China, which is designed to build sympathy for…what is, in my view, a quite aggressive leadership, which is engaged in conduct and conducted…an adversarial approach to relations with the United States. So in that sense, that particular dimension of foreign influence operations constitutes a genuine risk.”
Senator Collins also asked Director Burns whether he would recommend that colleges shut down Confucius Institutes on their campuses.
“[I]f I were president of…a college or university, and had a Confucius Institute, that's certainly what I would do.” Director Burns responded.
According to the nonpartisan National Association of Scholars, there are approximately 50 Confucius Institutes in the U.S., including eight that are scheduled to close.