Feb 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

House Republicans push Biden to adopt Trump Confucius Institute rule

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy walks back to his office from the Senate floor.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other top House Republicans sent a letter to President Biden Wednesday urging him to take up a Trump-era proposal that would increase scrutiny of China's state-funded Confucius Institutes in the U.S., according to a draft first obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Critics of the Chinese culture and language program say it's a "soft power" tool used to spread Beijing's influence on college campuses. Republicans have accused Biden and his Cabinet nominees of being "soft" on China and are pushing for him to take a harder line.

Between the lines: The proposed rule would have forced colleges and K-12 schools to disclose any contracts, partnerships or financial transactions from China-funded institutes or student groups, including Confucius Institutes or Chinese Students and Scholars Associations.

  • Although the Trump administration tried to get the proposed rule through in its final days, it was never finalized. It's normal for a new administration to drop non-final rules from the previous administration.
  • Still, Republican members are urging Biden to resubmit the rule "as soon as possible."

The letter references Biden's recent call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and quotes him saying, “If we don’t get moving, they’re going to eat our lunch.”

  • "Among the multitude of threats we face stemming from China, the [Chinese Communist Party]’s abuse of America’s academic system to steal sensitive research and technology, limit free expression, and propagandize our students is of particular concern,' the members wrote.
  • In addition to McCarthy, the letter was signed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Homeland Security ranking member John Katko (R-N.Y) and Education and Labor ranking member Virginia Foxx (N.C.).

The big picture: The letter is the latest in a flurry of objections from congressional Republicans — including Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Tom Cotton of Arkansas — over the rule being dropped, despite it never being published under President Trump.

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