(foxnews) – The Biden administration is facing growing backlash from Republicans after it withdrew a rule aimed at imposing reporting requirements on educational institutions that harbor Confucius Institutes — Chinese government-connected organizations that are ostensibly cultural centers but have drawn widespread concern that they are spreading pro-China propaganda.
Immigration Customs and Enforcement confirmed to Fox News that the rule ‒ first reported by Axios as a last-minute effort by the Trump administration ‒ was withdrawn on Jan. 26. The rule would have required schools to report whether they have relationships with Confucius Institutes.
“Confucius Institutes are front groups for the Chinese Communist Party on American campuses,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said of the rule’s withdrawal. “The federal government ought to shut down these regime-run institutes or, at a minimum, require colleges to disclose their secret agreements with them. Instead, the Biden administration is allowing a foreign influence operation to continue in the shadows.”
“The Biden Administration’s decision to withdraw this rule is deeply disappointing and surprising considering the serious nature of China’s efforts to expand its influence operations inside the United States,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “I urge them to reconsider.”
Among the findings Portman pointed to from a 2019 Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Report: “Since 2006, the Chinese government has provided more than $158 million to more than 100 U.S. schools for Confucius Institutes.”
Added Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.: “@FBI has warned about #China’s Communist Party using #ConfuciusInstitute to infiltrate American schools[.] But now Biden quietly withdrawn rule proposed by Trump admin to require schools & universities to disclose their partnerships with these agents of Chinese govt influence.”
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., introduced a budget amendment in the House Education and Labor Committee that would have blocked schools with Confucius Institutes from getting federal funds. It was blocked by Democrats.
“We must prevent American taxpayer dollars from going to institutions that have partnerships with any entity owned, controlled, or organized under the laws of the Chinese Communist Party, which we know is censoring free speech, engaging in genocide in Xinjiang Province, and influencing American academia before our eyes,” Stefanik said.
Voice of America (VOA) reported that the White House emphasized the rule was not withdrawn from the Federal Register but from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs process. The White House said, according to VOA, that the withdrawal happened because of a widespread regulatory freeze instituted by the Biden administration on Inauguration Day.
Nevertheless, Republicans have raised alarm over the fact that the Biden administration’s actions halted the rule aimed at limiting Chinese government influence on American campuses.
“Yesterday, Biden admin reversed a rule that stopped #CCP from sharing propaganda on US campuses,” Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., said. “@RepStefanik fought back & offered an amendment during markup last night to stop the reversal. Democrats struck it down.”
Other Western countries have also raised alarm about Confucius Institutes. Sweden last year became the first European country to purge all Confucius Institutes from its country, The Times reported. That happened amid deteriorating relations between the two countries and persistent efforts by China to gain more influence in the Arctic.
Republicans have long been opposed to supporting Confucius Institutes, and their recent opposition to the institutes came even before news broke that the Biden administration withdrew the Trump-era rule.
“Confucius Institutes are merely a tool for the Chinese Communist Party to spread propaganda to our youth and they have no place in Utah schools or our country,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said last week in response to efforts to close the institutes in his state. “Applaud efforts in the Utah Legislature to remove these institutes from our state universities.”