Wisconsin tech college seeks partnership with Chinese univ. as US intel warns of propaganda efforts

Western Technical College in Wisconsin is seeking to form a partnership with a Chinese university as the Trump administration has warned of the Chinese government’s alleged efforts to use Confucius Institutes for propaganda on American college campuses.

Officials from Harbin University, a Chinese university from the nation’s Heilongjiang province, toured Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wisc. on Wednesday with representatives from WTC, reported the La Crosse Tribune

The Chinese delegation also met with University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Technical College System officials and toured WTC’s Integrated Technology Center. 

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“We’re focused on opportunities where institutions can help students be more capable globally, be more successful and contribute to the global economy,” said president of the Technical College System board Mark Tyler, according to the Tribune. “Today, universities in China focus on theoretical teaching, so there’s a need for that applied education.” 

“They realize that our tech schools in the U.S. really drive home that applied knowledge.”

Tyler said that the parties are developing programs in which WTC, other tech schools, and traditional Wisconsin universities, exchange faculty and students with Harbin University. He also emphasized the importance for U.S. workers to speak Chinese, since many companies are outsourcing to China. 

Education officials have also been emphasizing the need for students to acquaint themselves with other languages and cultures before attending college. An agreement has been set to transfer two Chinese teachers to the School District of River Falls in fall 2019 to help elementary school students. The School District of La Crosse could also host Chinese instructors in the 2020-2021 school year, the Tribune reported.

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“As this program expands and we get more connections (in China), we’ll be able to grow the things we can do,” Carolyn Brady, a staffer in UW-River Falls’ international partnership and outreach program, according to the Tribune. “We’re very excited, because there appears to be a lot of areas for cooperation and collaboration.”

WTC associate dean of integrated technology Michael Poellinger said the school wants to host a similar, German delegation. WTC has also sent student and faculty representatives to other countries -- two WTC instructors are currently in Thailand.

The potential Chinese partnership follows recent controversies over Confucius Institutes. The Trump administration has pushed to close several of these institutions, which serve as Chinese language and culture educational organizations at U.S. universities. American defense officials have stated that these Chinese government-funded college institutions are used as a means to spread propaganda. 

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As reported by Campus Reform, 91 Confucius Institutes still remain active on U.S. soil. One Confucius Institute is housed in Wisconsin at UW-Platteville.

Campus Reform reached out to the UW system for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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