University of Akron to close its CCP propaganda hub after pressure from Congress

The University of Akron announced that it will be closing its Chinese funded Confucius Institute effective June 2022.

The decision is one of many made by universities seeking to comply with a federal law that would limit research funding to schools that host a Confucius Institute.

In a university-wide email sent on Monday, Nov. 8, the University of Akron announced it will be closing its Confucius Institute effective June 2022. The decision ends a 13 year partnership with Henan University, a public university in Kaifeng, China, that fueled the Institute’s operation.

The decision will leave the Ohio school in compliance with the National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress in 2021. Under the NDAA, universities that continue to engage in partnership with Confucius Institutes would be restricted access to Department of Defense research funding. The university directed Campus Reform to a statement, explaining that it had already “begun a transitional process to phase out its operations.

“The University of Akron has developed a broad research partnership with the Department of Defense and with other funding agencies and organizations at different levels of the federal and state government. In order to meet the requirements of the NDAA, The University of Akron has decided to close its Confucius Institute, effective June 30, 2022,” reads the statement.

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: EXCLUSIVE: Contracts reveal US universities ‘must’ accept CCP’s ‘assessment’ on ‘teaching quality’ at Confucius Institutes]

University of Akron is one of many institutions to close their Confucius Institute doors following the decision. Campus Reform has reported on these incidents as they occur, keeping track of the rise and fall of the number through an interactive map.

As previously reported, 56 Confucius Institutes were operating in the United States at the beginning of 2021. Since first publication of the map in March, 14 have ceased operations with more vowing to dismiss their connections by the end of the year.

Alex Mortensen, President of Turning Point USA at the University of Akron, told Campus Reform that while the announcement came as a surprise to many students, it was a welcome decision. 

“We [the chapter] were talking the other day trying to figure out the next steps and things we could do to help get rid of it,” Mortensen said. “Just out of the blue, the University announced they will be cutting ties with the Confucius Institute due to the new federal law.”

Mortensen mentioned that the impact of the NDAA would serve as a problem for the University, as research funding “is a large source of income for a lot of universities”.

“It was definitely to help protect the school’s finances,” he stated.

The presence of Confucius Institute’s on college campuses has become increasingly controversial as the benefits of the programs contrast against rising negative implications.

In the statement released by the University, they acknowledged the influence the Institute had on the community, citing language and cultural programming, student interactions, and study abroad opportunities. The statement credits the Institution to have been a “valuable contribution” to the community, and affirmed the University’s commitment to fostering international collaboration by noting:

“The Greater Akron community can continue to count on UA’s unwavering commitment to working together with local schools and organizations to develop programs that can benefit K-12 students, teachers and community members”.

[RELATED: US designates Chinese-funded Confucius Institutes as ‘foreign missions’]

While Confucius Institutes are billed as providing the opportunity for students to learn about and engage with another culture, their being funded by the Chinese government has fueled concern over secure academia and potential Chinese espionage has brought backlash upon universities who participate in the program. 

Mortensen told Campus Reform he also hopes that an investigation will be launched into the degree of Chinese influence and potential espionage on campus.