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Beijing's Outposts: Chinese Propaganda Centers Alive and Well at American Universities

Beijing's Outposts: Chinese Propaganda Centers Alive and Well at American Universities
Ramil Sitdikov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

As the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic continues to cause misery across the globe, it’s important to know how China spreads its propaganda. American universities have continued to ignore warnings by U.S. intelligence officials about Confucius Institutes. These centers, funded by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), continue to operate on dozens of campuses across the United States, despite Congressional actions to block domestic funding to them. Intelligence officials say they are little more than propaganda centers operating to produce positive news about the CCP.


Campus Reform published a report and interactive map showing where the Confucius Institutes still operate:

CIA reports obtained by The Washington Free Beacon further revealed, “The [Chinese Communist Party] provides ‘strings-attached’ funding to academic institutions and think tanks to deter research that casts it in a negative light. It has used this tactic to reward pro-China viewpoints and coerce Western academic publications and conferences to self-censor. The CCP often denies visas to academics who criticize the regime, encouraging many China scholars to preemptively self-censor so they can maintain access to the country on which their research depends.”

While legislation signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2018 resulted in about a dozen U.S. colleges shuttering Confucius Institutes on campus, those closures were largely the result of their loss of funding, rather than concerns for the country’s national security.

And now, nearly two years after that legislation became law, more than 75 Confucius Institutes are still in operation in the U.S., most of them on college campuses. From Maine to Florida to Kansas to California, these centers claim to educate American students about Chinese language and culture, and administrators who run the campuses on which they operate appear to believe the same country that claims to have fewer coronavirus deaths than the U.S, despite its population being more than three times the size of the U.S. population.


The Confucius Institutes exploit the positive feelings engendered by the brand of Confucius himself. Politico reported on a speech from 2011 by a member of the Beijing Politburo:

“The Confucius Institute is an appealing brand for expanding our culture abroad,” Li Changchun said. “It has made an important contribution toward improving our soft power. The ‘Confucius’ brand has a natural attractiveness. Using the excuse of teaching Chinese language, everything looks reasonable and logical.”

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act included an amendment by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that barred any college from receiving funding from the Department of Defense if they allowed a Confucius Institute to operate. Campus Reform reports that more than 15 colleges closed their Confucius Institutes, but several more refused to do so.

Cruz introduced a previous bill, the Stop Higher Education Espionage and Theft Act of 2018. He told the Washington Post, “Communist China is infiltrating American universities to meddle with our curricula, silence criticism of their regime, and steal intellectual property including sensitive dual-use research. The Confucius Institutes are the velvet glove around the iron fist of their campaigns on our campuses. The American government needs new tools to protect the integrity of our universities and research, and to block academic espionage.”


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In my book, Behind the Curtain, I wrote that more than 330,000 Chinese students attend colleges in America, and the CCP has spied on the United States on its campuses and through protest movements since the sixties:

The Chinese Embassy uses the app WeChat to coordinate with Chinese university students … “in the past few years, as Xi has strengthened the party’s control over every aspect of Chinese society and sought to extend his power abroad, consular officials have markedly increased their efforts to exert ideological influence over students — leaving some CSSA members wary to speak out against what they see as unwanted government intrusion.”

The FBI has taken notice. Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, testified in front of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in February 2018. In that testimony, Wray said, “And I think the level of naïveté on the part of the academic sector about this creates its own issues. They’re exploiting the very open research and development environment that we have, which we all revere, but they’re taking advantage of it. So one of the things we’re trying to do is view the China threat as not just a whole-of-government threat but a whole-of-society threat on their end, and I think it’s going to take a whole-of-society response by us. So it’s not just the intelligence community, but it’s raising awareness within our academic sector, within our private sector, as part of the defense.”

Wray has subsequently stated in interviews that many industrial espionage investigations lead back to China.

Of course, though industrial espionage makes for a significant threat to America’s industrial interests, perhaps more concern should be focused on China’s attempts to negatively affect American culture and foment dissent.


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China has spent decades infiltrating American society, with the dual purpose of fomenting dissent here, and stealing intellectual property and intelligence for use against the U.S. government. Like the Russians, Chinese agents have undertaken a coordinated effort to undermine America via antifa and other protest groups. Their goal is clear – to undermine American society and push it towards collapse. In Behind the Curtain, I wrote about intelligence documents declassified in 2017 that detailed these infiltrations:

Documents from investigations in the 1960s and the 1970s show a clear connection between several radical students from the flower power era, and promotion of the interests of the Chinese communist government. These connections to Maoist influences in China may persist to this day. At the time, the radical organizations allied with the Black Panther Party, militant Hispanic organizations, and other extreme groups, and made statements favoring Viet Cong victory over the United States in the Vietnam War. This wouldn’t move the needle too much today, fifty years later, except for the involvement of Floyd Huen. In the sixties and seventies, he was one of the most active radical protesters in the Red Guard Party, a pro-Mao communist group.

Fast forward to today. Huen has gotten very involved in progressive politics in California. His wife served as Mayor of Oakland from 2011 to 2014. Huen at one time held the position of Treasurer for the Wellstone Group, a liberal foundation that works to carry on the vision of the progressive congressman from Minnesota. Wellstone is one of the main supporters of BAMN, the Berkeley direct action rioting group (with ties to NAMBLA), along with George Soros and Open Society Foundation, which is a major funder of Wellstone. Other funders include SEIU,, and others.

So we have several foundations now that have direct influence – sometimes top leadership – from Maoist communists, and they continue their struggle to this day by funding and supporting BAMN and other radical riot groups affiliated with Antifa, who also proclaim themselves pro-communist.


The Chinese Ministry of Education, also known as Hanban, has a $10 billion budget to engage in propaganda and infiltration abroad. Given everything that has come out of China over the last year, a whole-of-society approach to pushing back on Chinese infiltrations is long overdue.

Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, “Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy,” available now at Jeff hosts a podcast at You can follow him on Twitter @ChargerJeff.

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