Campus Reform | Biden's UN ambassador nominee under fire for campus remarks at Chinese Communist-funded institute

Biden's UN ambassador nominee under fire for campus remarks at Chinese Communist-funded institute

During her Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, lawmakers questioned President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.N. Ambassador over a 2019 speech she gave at the Confucius Institute at Savannah State University.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield said it was a “huge mistake” to speak at the Chinese-funded institute at Savannah State University, a historically black college.

President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.N. Ambassador is facing pushback for a 2019 speech at the Confucius Institute at Savannah State University in Savannah, Georgia. 

During her Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she “truly regrets” speaking at the Chinese-funded institute at Savannah State University, a historically Black college, calling it a “huge mistake.”

Republican lawmakers questioned her stance on China. Sen. James Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called her past China remarks the “elephant in the room.” 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called the speech "cheerleading for the Chinese Communist Party.” 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) expressed shock at her lack of understanding of Confucius Institutes. 

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Campus Reform has previously reported that experts have voiced concerns over Confucius Institutes on college campuses across the country. While the Chinese-funded institutes are marketed as educational centers to promote Chinese culture, U.S. intelligence agencies have called them “propaganda centers” of the Chinese Communist Party. 

Thomas-Greenfield said her acceptance to speak was due to her relationship with Savannah State University and not the institute itself. She claimed this decision was part of her commitment to young Black students, hoping to inspire their consideration of a career in foreign service.

In her 2019 speech, Thomas-Greenfield said that China’s story of development is “attractive to African states who also seek to be better incorporated into the global economic system.”

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“China has definitely pushed that narrative and sought to be ‘Big Brother China’ to the continent,” Thomas-Greenfield said in Savannah.

However, in an effort to reassure lawmakers of her tough stance on China, Thomas-Greenfield called China a “strategic adversary” during the Senate hearing. Thomas-Greenfield continued to call China’s actions a threat to America's security and way of life.

Thomas-Greenfield has been in foreign service for more than 35 years. During the Obama administration, the Louisiana native oversaw the Bureau of African Affairs. She was also the U.S. ambassador to Liberia from 2008 to 2012.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @JezzamineWolk