Senior fellow at Yale’s China center explains why Confucius Institutes should stay

A senior fellow at Yale University’s China center wrote an article explaining why Confucius Institutes should remain on American university campuses.

The China center is funded by a co-founder of Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba.

A senior fellow at Yale University’s China center wrote an article explaining why Confucius Institutes should not be removed from American university campuses. 

Jamie Horsley — senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center and a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution — wrote in a Lawfare article reposted by Brookings that “the U.S. government should increase funding for Mandarin language and China studies courses, but also stop forcing cash-strapped universities to choose between federal funding and properly managed CI programs.”

As Campus Reform has frequently reported,  Confucius Institutes have drawn suspicion from American lawmakers as a “foreign mission” closely tied with the Chinese Communist Party.

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

Horsley discussed “a decline of American student interest in China studies and learning Mandarin Chinese” — a trend which, combined with “inflammatory rhetoric” about Confucius Institute programs — exacerbates “a national foreign language deficit at a time when training Mandarin speakers familiar with an ever more consequential China should be a national priority.”

She also recommended that the Biden administration “lift, or provide necessary waivers of, federal funding restrictions on universities that demonstrate appropriate academic freedom and institutional safeguards around their CIs, which are no longer directly funded by the Chinese government.”

“It should also consider authorizing the Confucius Institute U.S. Center (CIUS) to serve as a visa sponsor to assist Chinese teachers and staff of CIs obtain the proper visas, as well as enable CIUS to serve as a clearinghouse for information on such PRC personnel for relevant U.S. government agencies,” she added. 

[RELATED: A Stanford researcher was recently indicted for China ties. As new China center opens, has Stanford learned its lesson?]

Later in the article, Horsley admitted that Confucius Institutes generated “legitimate concerns about academic freedom and independence due to their direct support from, and admitted role as a “soft power” instrument for, China’s party-state.” Though she also acknowledges that “The CI project is intended to promote a favorable understanding of China,” she notes that the program does not “enjoy a monopoly over information available on campuses.”

The Paul Tsai China Center “works collaboratively with a broad range of top experts in the Chinese government, universities, and civil society on concrete projects designed to have a positive practical impact.”

In 2016, Taiwanese-born Joseph Tsai — son of Paul Tsai and co-founder of Chinese e-commerce business Alibaba — funded the center with a $30 million investment. The center was subsequently named after his father.

Campus Reform reached out to Horsley for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

 Follow this author on Twitter: Ben Zeisloft