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Statue of Confucius on the campus of George Mason University in Virginia. Photo: Robert Knopes/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Trump administration is trying to push through a last-minute policy to heighten scrutiny of Chinese government funding in American education, according to multiple administration officials familiar with the rule.

Why it matters: China's influence in U.S. classrooms — particularly through Confucius Institutes — has long concerned Republicans. The outgoing administration has been particularly outspoken, labeling them Chinese foreign missions last summer.

  • Just last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged universities to take seriously concerns of China's influence through funding and student programs and has called for Confucius Institutes to close.
  • The institutes teach Chinese language and culture classes on U.S. campuses. They have caused alarm because they are funded and staffed by the Chinese Ministry of Education, and in numerous cases they have censored curricula and events.

What to watch: The rule would require colleges and K-12 schools that are certified to have foreign exchange programs to disclose any contracts, partnerships or financial transactions from Confucius Institutes or Classrooms (the Confucius Institute offshoot for primary and secondary schools).

  • The rule would also apply to any other cultural institutes or student groups, such as Chinese Students and Scholars Associations, that are funded directly or indirectly by China, according to a Department of Homeland Security official.
  • If schools fail to report the information, Student and Exchange Visitor Program certification would be denied.

Between the lines: A report from the Senate’s Permanent Select Committee on Investigations found that nearly 70% of schools receiving more than $250,000 from organizations related to the Chinese government did not report the funding as legally required.

  • "This lack of reporting makes it impossible for the U.S. government to discern the level of potential influence of China on the U.S. educational system," according to a senior DHS official.

Be smart: It is not certain the rule will reach the Federal Register before Biden takes office a week from Wednesday, but officials are pushing to get it done in time, the sources said.

  • Once published in the register, the new rule would go into effect immediately as an interim final rule. The Biden administration would have the opportunity to easily undo it, should it decide to do so.

Go deeper

11 hours ago - World

Top DOJ official John Demers on the agency's China Initiative

Assistant Attorney General John Demers speaks at a press conference on Oct. 19, 2020. Photo credit: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images.

John Demers, the assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice's National Security Division who leads the department's China Initiative, spoke with Axios about his view on the initiative's progress since its launch in 2018 and what he hopes to see in the coming year as Biden assumes office.

The big picture: The China Initiative made headlines with dozens of major indictments but also sparked controversy over its targeting of scientists with links to the Chinese government.

11 hours ago - World

What Biden's top administration picks signal about his China strategy

Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Early indicators suggest the Biden administration may continue to pursue a robust China strategy that reaches across multiple government departments and agencies.

Why it matters: Though the Trump administration's approach to China was often controversial, there is broad bipartisan agreement that China poses a major challenge to U.S. interests and values.

12 hours ago - World

U.S. declares China's actions against Uighurs "genocide"

A protester in London. Photo Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty

With just one day left in President Trump's term, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has officially determined that China's campaign of mass internment, forced labor and forced sterilization of over 1 million Muslim minorities in Xinjiang constitutes "genocide" and "crimes against humanity."

Why it matters: The U.S. has become the first country to adopt these terms to describe the Chinese Communist Party's gross human rights abuses in its far northwest.