Tennessee governor moves to end Confucius Institutes
The governor of Tennessee is working to bar China’s Confucius Institutes from operating on public campuses.
The bill also requires universities to reveal foreign gifts to the public.
The governor of Tennessee is moving to ban China’s Confucius Institutes from operating on public college campuses.
Gov. Bill Lee (R-TN) announced on March 16 that his administration proposed legislation to “require greater transparency for foreign investments on college and university campuses and prohibit the establishment of Confucius Institutes.”
“Colleges and universities are a place for the robust debate of ideas — not a place for foreign governments to operate in the shadows,” said the governor in a press release. “After the federal government rolled back critical reporting requirements around Confucius Institutes, my administration is taking action to provide Tennessee taxpayers greater transparency in all foreign investment on our campuses.”
[RELATED: Chinese state media accuses US of racism after MIT prof is arrested for China ties. Here's what MIT had to say.]
The press release adds that the legislation dubbed the Transparency in Foreign Investment Act, is a “key priority” in the state’s legislative agenda.
According to a recent Campus Reform analysis, there are currently two operating Confucius Institutes in Tennessee: one at Middle Tennessee State University and the other at Simpson County Schools.
In addition to prohibiting Tennessee’s public universities from hosting Confucius Institutes, which “have concerning ties to communist regimes,” the bill establishes a requirement for universities to “disclose gifts and contracts from foreign sources and refuse any gift or contract that poses a credible national security threat.”
The state will also create a report on gifts over $10,000 from foreign sources, which institutions of higher education must submit. The state comptroller will make the reports publicly available.
[RELATED: Columbia president advocates softer China approach amid questions over foreign gifts]
The legislation defines “foreign source” as governments, legal entities, and individuals that are associated with foreign nations.
In February, Campus Reform spoke to Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) about Confucius Institutes.
[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Sen. Marsha Blackburn sounds off on CCP's 'soft propaganda' on US college campuses]
Blackburn explained that the Confucius Institute exists as “soft propaganda” from the Chinese Communist Party.
“They say that they're going in to teach language and teach about culture, but what they're also doing is teaching about the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese history in the viewpoint of the Chinese Communist Party,” she explained.
Blackburn added that members of the Chinese government reference the Confucius Institute as “being a part of their propaganda program.”
Campus Reform recently reported that federal lawmakers are working to encourage President Joe Biden to promote transparency in relation to the Confucius Institute.
[RELATED: GOP senators join House colleagues in urging Biden to reinstate Confucius Institute rule]
Republicans in the House and Senate urged Biden to restore a Trump-era policy that required universities to disclose Confucius Institute ties.
Campus Reform reached out to Lee's office for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft