EXCLUSIVE: Texas Southern University once involved in contract giving China broad control of its Confucius Institute

In recent years, Texas Southern University was involved in a contract with China that gave the CCP a considerable amount of control overwhat is taught at the Confucius Institute on American soil.

The contract stated that TSU "must accept" the CCP's assessment of teaching quality at the Confucius Institute.

One expert on U.S. relations with China told Campus Reform that this is a “shameful abdication of an American university’s responsibility to protect academic freedom.”

Texas Southern University was involved in an agreement with Beijing Jiaotong University, which gave a considerable amount of control to China over what curriculum was taught in TSU’s Confucius Institute, documents obtained by Campus Reform reveal.

The contract, which was signed in 2012, gave BJTU power to decide the “themes of academic reports and the implementation plans,” while Texas Southern University’s Confucius Institute “must accept the assessment of the [Confucius Institute] Headquarters on the teaching quality,” according to the agreement.

In addition, the 2012 agreement between Confucius Institute Headquarters of China and Texas Southern University stated that the Confucius Institute Headquarters was obligated to “provide 3,000 volumes of Chinese books, teaching materials, and audio-visual materials.” 

According to a separate agreement signed in 2014, the Chinese university must “provide one or two visiting scholars/instructors on Chinese language and culture each year.” Texas Southern University was also required to provide living accommodations and local travel arrangements for the Chinese professors when they were teaching at the institute. 

Funding for the institute was drawn from Texas Southern University, the Confucius Institute Headquarters, BJTU, the institute’s tuition fee, and external donations, according to the contracts reviewed by Campus Reform.

The board of directors “formulates and approves” the course curriculums, “recruitment plan of all the programs,” and “financial plan” of the Confucius Institute, according to the contract.

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In the 2012 agreement, Confucius Institute Headquarters promised to provide a “$150,000 start-up fund, and provide a set amount of annual fund according to needs.”

Seth Cropsey,  a senior fellow and director of the Center for American Seapower at the Hudson Institute told Campus Reform that this arrangement is a “shameful abdication of an American university’s responsibility to protect academic freedom.”

“No respectable American university would allow a foreign government, especially one whose enmity for the U.S. is documented as is China’s, to provide teaching materials or have any role whatsoever in the content of what is taught in the classroom,” Cropsey continued.

Cropsey said that the “nail in this shameful coffin” was when the agreement outlined that Texas Southern University “must accept the assessment of the [Confucius Institute] Headquarters on the teaching quality.”

“Isn’t giving the Chinese government control over who teaches, what is taught, and management of the program enough? Apparently not. China also seeks to correct whatever they regard as insufficient attention to the party line by ‘assessment,’” Cropsey said.

National Association of Scholars senior research fellow Rachelle Peterson told Campus Reform that the agreement is “deeply alarming.”

“Imagine the federal government dictating to colleges and universities whom they must hire. Institutions of higher education would never stand for it--yet they willingly submit to the Chinese government’s preferences,” Peterson said. “The Chinese government is given a free hand to select and train teachers who will recite Beijing’s line, promote the Chinese government’s policies, and avoid any political or religious beliefs that might embarrass the Chinese Communist Party. Coupled with textbooks selected by the Chinese government, this means that American students get a steady diet of whatever Beijing wants them to hear.” 

According to PoliticoPeterson once had received permission from a teacher in the Alfred University Confucius Institute to sit in on a class. While observing the class, the provost stormed into the room and demanded that she left the campus.

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When Campus Reform reached out to Texas Southern University, a spokesperson said that the university “suspended its relationship” with the Confucius Institute headquarters in the spring of 2018.

However, a 2019 Government Accountability Office report on Confucius Institutes in the United States listed Texas Southern University as “operating” a Confucius Institute as of January 2019.

When Campus Reform pointed this out to TSU, the university did not respond.

Campus Reform again reached out to Texas Southern University to ask whether it is still engaged in a contract with the Chinese government for the Confucius Institute. A spokesperson said it is not engaged in a contract, but did not respond to a follow-up question asking when the university ended the contract.

According to internet archives, the Texas Southern University Confucius Institute website became the Texas Southern University China Institute website between September 2, 2018 and September 15, 2018

As of the publication of this article, its website still notes that TSU partners with BJTU. 

In August 2019, the U.S. Department of State declared Confucius Institutes a “foreign mission” of the People’s Republic of China, as Campus Reform reported. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @redwave1776