In its first week, the Biden administration withdrew a rule proposed by the Trump administration that would have required schools to disclose funding they receive from Chinese state-run Confucius Institutes. The Trump administration had labeled the Confucius Institutes as “propaganda outlets” for the Chinese government.
On Dec. 31, the Trump administration submitted a rule proposal, titled “Establishing Requirement for Student and Exchange Visitor Program Certified Schools to Disclose Agreements with Confucius Institutes and Classrooms.” A status update of the rule, posted on the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs website, shows on Jan. 26, the proposed rule had been withdrawn.
The move stopped the proposed rule from being forwarded along to the Federal Register where proposed government rules are posted, thus preventing the rule from taking effect.
According to Axios, the proposed rule would have required colleges and K-12 schools to disclose any contracts, partnerships or financial transactions from Confucius Institutes, or Confucius Classrooms (an offshoot of the Confucius Institutes for primary and secondary education). The reporting requirement also applied to other cultural institutes, like the Chinese Students and Scholars Associations, that are funded either directly or indirectly by the Chinese government.
Schools that failed to fully report these partnerships would be denied Student and Exchange Visitor Program certification.
“ICE can confirm that the rule was withdrawn on Jan 26. ICE does not speculate about future pre-decisional proposed rules or policies,” a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday.
The rule was one of several efforts raised by the Trump administration to counter China’s influence in U.S. education systems via Confucius Institutes. Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Confucius Institutes are “an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign on U.S. campuses and K-12 classrooms.”
In August, the State Department designated Confucius Institutes as “foreign missions” of China, requiring them to register as foreign missions and follow restrictions similar to those placed on foreign embassies.
The Washington Examiner reported the Biden administration’s move to stop the rule drew criticism from Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Marco Rubio, and House Foreign Affairs ranking member Michael McCaul.
McCaul told the Examiner that by dropping the proposed rule, “The Biden administration is sending a concerning signal about its scrutiny of CCP influence in academia, and telling academic institutions that they don’t need to be transparent about their ties to China’s regime.
“It’s all the more disturbing because the education industry already fails to report billions of dollars of foreign gifts and contracts,” McCaul continued. “I strongly urge the Biden Administration to stick to its promises to prioritize the CCP as our main national security challenge, including in the American education system.”
The Biden administration’s move comes days after Biden issued an executive order that, among other things, paused a previous executive order by Trump that barred Chinese companies from participating in the U.S. power grid.
Biden has said he will challenge China on a range of issues. In a visit to the State Department last week, Biden said he would “confront China’s economic abuses, counter its aggressive, coercive action, to push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property and global governance.” Biden then said, “But we are ready to work with Beijing, when it’s in America’s interests to do so.”