Another Chinese language and cultural program in the United States suspected over decades of being fronts for communist propaganda and misinformation has been shut down by a U.S. university.
The University of South Carolina (USC) at Columbia announced it had ended an on-campus Chinese language and culture program run by the Confucius Institute (CI), which is part of a global program implemented by the communist Chinese government.
The USC Board of Directors voted to end the university's partnership with CI, which is under Hanban. Formally known as the Office of Chinese Language Council International, Hanban falls under China's Ministry of Education.
South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, who is an ex-officio member of the USC board of trustees, said she had discussed removing the Confucius Institute with top officials from USC and local school districts.
"We spoke with several district superintendents in the Midlands and there was no strong involvement at all," said Spearman at the meeting.
Hanban describes CI as public educational partnerships between colleges and universities in China and colleges and universities in other countries. These partnerships are partly funded and arranged by Hanban.
CI has been at USC since 2008. In this time span, it's been accused of functioning as the propaganda arm of the communist Chinese government, whitewashing Chinese abuses and stifling anti-China dissent at the USC campus. Members of the U.S. Congress such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the FBI and education advocacy groups have long objected to CI's presence on American campuses.
CI's American critics have put pressure on U.S. colleges and universities to close their CI programs. A number of U.S. national security experts warn that CIs are hubs for Chinese spies.
A few years ago, Li Changchun, formerly the fifth highest-ranking member of the Communist Party of China's Politburo Standing Committee, was quoted in Western media as saying the Confucius Institutes are "an important part of China's overseas propaganda set-up."
Other critics of CI contend the CI programs are exercises in soft power that expand China's economic, cultural, and diplomatic reach by promoting Chinese language and culture.
Pressure from U.S. officials has led to the closure of many CIs around the U.S. There are now fewer than 90 CIs remaining open in the U.S. compared to a peak of 110 at the end of 2018. Thirteen universities in California that hosted CIs decided to close their programs in 2019.
Among these schools are San Diego State, Cal State Long Beach, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis and Stanford.