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Tipsheet

Biden's Education Secretary Doesn't Even Know What Confucius Institutes Are

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

For more than two years, Miguel Cardona has been the United States Secretary of Education, supposedly advising President Joe Biden and overseeing a massive portfolio of student debt and seemingly bowing to teacher unions and woke culture warriors at any opportunity to the detriment of America's students. 

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This week, however, Americans learned again that Secretary Cardona is just as uninformed and unqualified as several other members of Biden's cabinet when the man in charge of America's education system admitted that he doesn't know about Confucius Institutes, one of the Chinese Communist Party's Trojan horses.

When asked by Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI) whether he's aware of any attempts by the Chinese Communist Party "to influence U.S. education," Cardona said he didn't have "any information around specific efforts" by the CCP.

Getting more specific, Moolenaar pressed Cardona on whether he was even familiar with Confucius Institutes.

"I don't have information on the Confucius Institutes now," Cardona said revealing his lack of knowledge on the subject. "But I can- I'm sure my team may be aware of it and we can look into that," he added trying to save face.

Here's the exchange in which Cardona struggled to come up with an answer to questions about the CCP's influence in American education:

While the U.S. Secretary of Education is apparently unaware of Confucius Institutes and therefore unconcerned about the Chinese Communist Party's reach within institutions of learning in the U.S., many Americans, think tanks, and academic associations have been warning about the outposts for CCP activity that permeate U.S. schools and universities. 

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The Heritage Foundation and the National Association of Scholars (NAS) have warned of the CCP's "soft power" being wielded within American institutions:

Founded in 2004, the Confucius Institutes are a global phenomenon, enrolling more than nine million students at 525 institutes in 146 countries and regions. More than 100 institutes have opened in the United States, including at prestigious universities such as Columbia and Stanford. They are mostly staffed and funded by an agency of the Chinese government’s Ministry of Education—the Office of Chinese Languages Council International, or Hanban. The Hanban also operates Confucius Classrooms in an estimated 500 primary and secondary schools in the United States.

A 243-page NAS report described in detail the many strings attached to the goodies offered by Confucius Institutes:

Intellectual freedom. Chinese teachers—hired, paid by and accountable to the Communist Chinese government—are pressured to avoid “sensitive” topics like the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the Cultural Revolution.

Transparency. Contracts between American universities and the Hanban are rarely made public. One university went so far as to forbid Rachelle Peterson from visiting their campus as part of her research.

Entanglement. Confucius Institutes cover all the expenses of classes and also offer scholarships to American students to study abroad. With such financial incentives, universities find it difficult to criticize Chinese policies like its genocidal treatment of Muslim Uyghurs in Western China.

Soft power. Confucius Institutes avoid discussing China’s widespread human-rights abuses and present Taiwan and Tibet as undisputed Chinese territories. As a result, writes Peterson, the institutes “develop a generation of American students with selective knowledge of a major country”—and a major adversary. Confucius Institutes are a textbook example of soft power that causes universities in receipt of Chinese largesse to stay silent about controversial subjects like China’s use of forced labor to pick cotton, a 21st century variation of the slavery of the ante-bellum South.

The Confucius Institutes pretend to be a Chinese version of cultural institutions like the Alliance Française or the Goethe Institute, but they are in reality a propaganda machine funded and directed by the Chinese government. Based on the findings of its 2017 report, the NAS recommends that “all universities close their Confucius Institutes.”

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So, China has been running CCP propaganda operations — not to mention stealing intellectual property — on U.S. soil for nearly two decades, and the Secretary of Education doesn't know about it. 

Even worse, shortly after taking office in 2021, the Biden administration quietly ended efforts launched by the Trump administration to track Confucius Institutes and root out their CCP-driven activities, meaning Confucius Institutes should be known to those serving in the president's cabinet. But Cardona, as demonstrated this week, doesn't have a clue. 

With this "know-nothing" display, Cardona joins other Biden administration colleagues such as ATF Director Steve Dettelbach who couldn't define "assault weapon" when asked to explain the firearms he and Biden have demanded be banned. 

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