Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, has called for the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s investigative arm, to examine agreements American colleges and universities have signed with the Chinese government, asking if the institutions had made “quiet compromises” on academic freedom in the process.
During a hearing on the topic on Thursday before the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, which Mr. Smith leads, he questioned whether colleges had sold out their values to receive financial support from China to build academic facilities in China and to establish Confucius Institutes, which are Chinese-language and -cultural centers that operate on American campuses.
“While foreign educational partnerships are important endeavors—for students, collaborative research, cultural understanding, and even for the host country—I think we all can agree that U.S. colleges and universities should not be outsourcing academic control, faculty and student oversight, or curriculum to a foreign government,” he said.
During the hearing, several academics and a human-rights expert offered policy recommendations to curb the influence of China. Perry Link, a professor of comparative literature and foreign languages at the University of California at Riverside, suggested that the U.S. government provide more money for Chinese-language programs to decrease the appeal of Confucius Institutes and that it withhold visas to Confucius Institute instructors until China lifts a ban on a handful of American scholars for political reasons. Mr. Link has been barred from China for nearly two decades, probably for his writings on human rights in China.