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Stringsattached funding to coerce censorship

Issued: 2018-03-07

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BY: Natalie Johnson Follow @nataliejohnsonn March 7, 2018 5:00 am

The CIA has issued a classified report detailing China's far-reaching foreign influence operations campaign in the United States, which imparts financial incentives as leverage to permeate American institutions.

In an unclassified page of the report obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, the CIA cautions against efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to stipulate funding to universities and policy institutes in exchange for academic censorship.

"The CCP provides ‘strings-attached' funding to academic institutions and think tanks to deter research that casts it in a negative light," the report says. "It has used this tactic to reward pro-China viewpoints and coerce Western academic publications and conferences to self-censor. The CCP often denies visas to academics who criticize the regime, encouraging many China scholars to preemptively self-censor so they can maintain access to the country on which their research depends."

The CIA warning joins a growing call by U.S. lawmakers and intelligence officials to investigate China's involvement on American college campuses. The agency declined to comment on the report.

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee last month the bureau is investigating dozens of Confucius Institutes, the Chinese-backed language and cultural centers hosted by more than 100 universities across the country. Despite their broad entrenchment in American academics over the past decade, little is known about the nature of the contracts between Beijing and the host universities—funding amounts and contractual terms are largely kept secret.

The U.S. intelligence community has warned of the institutes' potential to be used as a spying tool. The concern is particularly pressing at the 13 universities that host both Confucius Institutes and top-secret Pentagon research, including Arizona State, Auburn, Purdue, Stanford, and the University of Washington.

Wray said "naiveté" in the academic sector has aggravated the risks, accusing the Chinese government of "exploiting the very open research and development environment that we have" on college campuses.

Last month, Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), who co-chairs the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, called on the five Florida educational institutions that host Confucius Institutes to end those partnerships amid reports that the Chinese government uses the programs to limit discussion on topics the government finds sensitive, such as the Tiananmen Square Massacre or the political status of Tibet.


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