CAUGHT RED-HANDED: NY University Announces Big Move After Republicans Call It Out

A New York university will shut down its Confucius Institute by the end of June after facing intense scrutiny from Rep. Mike Gallagher, chairman of the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. 

I’m glad to see Alfred University finally doing the right thing and shutting down its Confucius Institute,” Gallagher, R-Wis., said in a statementThursday. “But the Confucius Institute is only one tool in the CCP’s toolbox—it will use research partnerships, talent programs, and other initiatives to gain access to sensitive research and technologies that fuel the [People’s Liberation Army]’s advancement.” 

We’re going to continue to dig into the facts to make sure that no American taxpayer dollars are supporting research partnerships that the CCP can exploit for its own purposes,” Gallagher said. 

China funds Confucius Institutes, founded in 2004, as “cultural” centers operating on college campuses. In the past few years, these centers have come under increased scrutiny as operations of Chinese state influence.

Gallagher sent a letter to Alfred University President Mark Zupan on May 31 and launched an investigation into the university.

In 2022, you were awarded a $13.5 million DOD research grant for hypersonic weapons while simultaneously hosting a Confucius Institute and partnering with a Chinese university ‘actively engaged in defense research’ on behalf of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA),” Gallagher wrote to Zupan.

A Raytheon rendering of the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept. (Raytheon)

To put it plainly, you are conducting advanced, hypersonic weapons-related research while actively partnering with a Chinese university that performs similar research for the PLA. We seek additional information regarding this alarming matter and Alfred’s commitment to safeguard sensitive U.S. military research,” Gallagher also wrote

A lawyer representing Alfred University responded to Gallagher in a letter Tuesday.

Alfred University has decided to close the Confucius Institute as of June 30, 2023. I also note that Alfred University takes very seriously the issue of protecting intellectual property and improper technology export,” the lawyer wrote. 

Even though Alfred University does not engage in classified research, it has for multiple years engaged with the Department of Commerce and the FBI to strengthen its export control policies and processes,” the lawyer added. “Thank you for attention to this matter and the important oversight function you fill as a member of Congress.”

“While our community has benefited from the cultural programming provided by the Confucius Institute that we have operated since 2008, current geopolitical concerns regarding China make it difficult to continue to run it. With respect to those concerns, we have decided to close our Institute effective June 30, 2023,” Mark Danes, vice president for marketing and communications at Alfred University, told The Daily Signal in an email. 

Gallagher also sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on May 31 and launched an investigation into the Defense Department. 

“The Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Information Technologies, and Innovation write to express our deep concern that lucrative Department of Defense (DOD) research grants continue to be awarded to universities that host Confucius Institutes,” Gallagher wrote in the letter to Austin.

“These institutes are ‘funded by the CCP Propaganda Department’ and ‘overseen by personnel based in Chinese embassies and consulates,’ according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission,” the chairman also wrote.

Gallagher added: 

To put it plainly, DOD is funding advanced, hypersonic weapons-related research at an American university that actively partners with a Chinese university that performs similar research for the PLA. 

We seek additional information regarding this alarming matter and the DOD’s efforts to safeguard sensitive U.S. military research.

The Daily Signal previously asked the Defense Department about the investigation into Alfred University and the department, the letter sent to Austin and the concerns raised in it, and if the department would comply with the June 14 deadline to provide the requested information and brief “relevant staff … regarding the Department’s plan to enforce [a specific provision of a 2021 National Defense Authorization Act] and grant waivers to U.S. universities-including Alfred-who receive DOD research funds and yet continue to host a Confucius Institute today.”

The Defense Department said that they had no additional information to provide at the time. 

In both letters, Gallagher highlighted that “Section 1062 of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) prohibits the DOD from providing funds to ‘institution[s] of higher education that hosts a Confucius Institute’ after October 1, 2023.”

The Daily Signal also asked the Defense Department about Alfred University closing its Confucius Institute, but did not immediately receive a response. 

The Daily Signal’s Jarrett Stepman contributed to this report.

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