Twenty-one Republican members of the US Congress have called on the Department of Education to consider using a program with Taiwan to offer “censorship-free alternatives” to the China-backed Confucius Institutes on many US college campuses.
Fox News on Tuesday reported that US Senator Marsha Blackburn and US Representative Michelle Steel initiated the group’s March 18 letter to US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona asking that the US-Taiwan Education Initiative, which was established in December last year, be expanded.
In the letter, the lawmakers said the Confucius Institutes, which promote the study of Mandarin and Chinese culture on US college campuses, are funded and overseen by an affiliate of the Chinese Ministry of Education.
In response to growing evidence that Beijing was pressuring faculty at the centers to avoid topics seen as damaging to China’s national interests, the US Department of State designated the program’s Washington headquarters as a foreign mission in August last year, the lawmakers said.
While many US colleges have taken steps to clamp down on or close their Confucius Institutes, “there remains a high student demand for studies relating to Mandarin language and Chinese culture and history,” which Taiwan can help to fill, the letter said.
“Learning Mandarin from Taiwanese teachers means learning Mandarin in an environment free from censorship or coercion,” the lawmakers said, quoting American Institute in Taiwan Director Brent Christensen.
The US lawmakers urged Cardona to consider expanding the US-Taiwan Education Initiative or other related programs to provide “censorship-free alternatives” to Confucius Institutes for the study of Mandarin and Chinese culture.
According to the National Association of Scholars, there were 50 Confucius Institutes were operating in the US as of March 25, down from a peak of more than 100.
The reduction stems in part from a 2018 US law that forced schools to choose between keeping the institutes open or losing US Department of Defense funding for their foreign language programs.
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