Candidates call out CCP threat on campus, DEI, and CRT

'We shouldn't have them in our universities,' DeSantis said when asked about China.

During the second 2024 Republican presidential primary debate on Wednesday, candidates took aim at liberal bias and the results of progressivism in American higher education, including Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs, Critical Race Theory (CRT), and the threat of institutional infiltration by China.

When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was asked about his comfort level with China deepening ties with countries in the southern hemisphere, DeSantis expressed strong disapproval, blaming the situation on Washington elites who have “chosen surrender over strength.” 

He called for a “totally new approach to China,” emphasizing the need for military deterrence in the Indo-Pacific, economic decoupling, and cultural resistance. He cited his own actions as governor, such as banning the Chinese Communist Party from buying land in Florida and advocating for similar bans across the U.S.

”We shouldn’t have them in our universities,” DeSantis added. We shouldn’t have Confucius Institutes.”

Campus Reform has covered Confucius Institutes on American college campuses for years. U.S. intelligence agencies have identified these Chinese-funded institutes as outposts for spreading Chinese Communist Party propaganda under the guise of educating students.

[RELATED: CCP doubles down on influence in K-12 education following US crackdown on Confucius Institutes]

In 2018, Congress barred all universities hosting Confucius Institutes from receiving Department of Defense funding for Chinese language study. While many universities have since shuttered the centers, many remain operational. 

Former Chinese government official and propaganda minister Liu Yushan admitted that the Chinese government uses Confucius Institutes to “actively carry out international propaganda battles against issues such as Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, human rights and Falun gong,” according to a 2018 Politico report.

[RELATED: Republicans introduce legislation to cut taxpayer funding of universities with ties to Russian and Chinese militias]

In 2020, Campus Reform published an interactive map detailing where more than 75 Confucius Institutes operated in the U.S. 

In 2021, Campus Reform reported that DeSantis signed two bills that required state universities to report foreign donations over $50,000 to the State University System Board of Governors or Department of Education.

During the debate, Former U.N Ambassador Nikki Haley called out American education for its focus on DEI initiatives and CRT, noting that American students should be instead learning marketable skills.

Nikki asserted that educators should “quit spending time on this DEI and CRT, and instead focus on financial literacy, on digital literacy, and on making sure that our kids know what they need to do to have the jobs of the next generation.”