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Friday, December 8th, 2023

House Homeland Security Committee advances measure targeting alleged Chinese infiltration of universities

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Through advancement of the DHS Restrictions on Confucius Institutes and Chinese Entities of Concern Act (H.R. 1516), this week the House Homeland Security Committee took aim at American funds going to universities connected to Chinese entities of concern.

Authored by Homeland Security Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence Subcommittee Chairman August Pfluger (R-TX), the bill would block any Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding to American universities with Confucius Institutes or which maintain relationships with Chinese entities of concern. Essentially, the bill seeks to end what Pfluger cited as efforts to exploit the open and collaborative nature of American academia for industrial and military espionage – by clamping down further on the open and collaborative nature of American academia.

“It is time that we draw a line in the sand—either you support national security or you do not.” Pfluger said. “This is a very simple bill that ensures universities that take money or have a relationship with the Chinese Communist Party do not get the access to national security-related research dollars that the Department of Homeland Security offers.”

Originally, Confucius institutes were created as a supposed way to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching abroad and foster opportunities for cultural exchange. Recent years have seen the U.S. government crackdown on these institutes, though, prohibiting Department of Defense funding from going to institutions of higher education that host Confucius Institutes. H.R. 1516 would expand such prohibitions to the DHS.

“Under no circumstances should a school in the United States be allowed to receive DHS funding while tacitly accepting the CCP’s, money that comes with the price tag of fealty,” Pfluger said. “The legislation I put forward today, H.R. 1516, the “DHS Restrictions on Confucius Institutes Act”, ensures that schools prioritize the security of their scientific research and technological development efforts above a paycheck from the CCP or entities affiliated with the CCP or PLA.”

According to Pfluger, the bill is meant to encourage universities to end relationships with partners who do not have America’s best interest in mind and to eliminate foreign influence at those schools. Ultimately, he saw this as a way to cut down on theft of research and development work as well. Opponents have argued, however, that this would adversely affect HBCUs, MSIs and HSIs from receiving critical funding.