Texas A&M University has agreed to heed a bipartisan warning from two Members of Congress, ending its partnership with a "Confucius Institute" that lawmakers say is a front for Chinese government propaganda.
The University of Texas at Austin likewise rejected a funding offer from China after receiving a warning from Sen. Ted Cruz in January, but UT-San Antonio and UT-Dallas both say they need time to review the matter.
Two Texas lawmakers are urging the state’s public universities to “consider terminating” their relationship with China-linked Confucius Institutes.
Congressmen Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) sent their request in a bipartisan letter to several Texas schools, expressing “deep concerns over Chinese government influence spreading throughout educational institutions in Texas.”
"We have great respect for Congressmen McCaul and Cuellar…they have access to classified information we do not have. We are terminating the contract as they suggested."
[RELATED: Lawmakers push bill to limit Chinese influence in higher ed]
The April 5 letter notes that Confucius Institutes were started by the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, which strives to “win support for China’s political agenda, accumulate influence overseas and gather key information.”
The letter goes on to explain the institutes’ specific ties to the Chinese government, noting that they are overseen by an office that operates under China’s Ministry of Education.
In an effort to address possible national security concerns, the letter also goes over FBI Director Christopher Wray’s February testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, in which he underscored that the FBI has “concerns about the Confucius Institutes.”
At the time, Wray argued that the Confucius Institutes are “exploiting the very open research and development environment we have, which we all revere, but they’re taking advantage of it."
[RELATED: Congress looks to curb Chinese infiltration of higher ed]
The letter concludes by stressing that the Chinese government has “malicious intent to suppress our American values of free expression, speech, and debate,” and urges the public universities “to consider terminating your Confucius Institute and other agreements with Chinese government supported organizations.”
In response to the lawmakers’ request, Texas A&M University recently announced that the school will be ending its partnership with a local Confucius Institute, Inside Higher Ed reports.
“We have great respect for Congressmen McCaul and Cuellar,” Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp told the publication. “I don’t question their judgment, nor their patriotism. In addition, they have access to classified information we do not have. We are terminating the contract as they suggested.”
Earlier in the year, the University of Texas at Austin responded favorably to a similar request from Republican Senator Ted Cruz, rejecting an offer of funding from the China United States Exchange Foundation, which has close ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
[RELATED: UT rejects funding from group linked to Chinese Communists]
Some schools, however, are opting to evaluate the lawmakers’ claims about China’s influence in higher education before making a final decision.
The University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Texas at Dallas both told Campus Reform that they are reviewing the legislators’ concerns regarding Confucius Institutes.
According to Reuters, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has argued that the institutes are intended to foster educational and cultural exchanges, heavily criticizing a legislative proposal by the U.S. Senate that would require the institutes to register as foreign agents.
“We hope these people can abandon these outmoded ideas and get their brains, along with their bodies, into the 21st century, and objectively and rationally view the trends of the time in global development and China’s development progress,” said Hua.
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