A university receiving a Defense Department grant to research hypersonic weapons has ended its relationship with a Chinese Communist Party-linked organization on its campus, the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party announced Thursday.
Alfred University, located in upstate New York, sent a letter to the committee, stating it had closed its Confucius Institute.
“I’m glad to see Alfred University finally doing the right thing and shutting down its Confucius Institute,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), who chairs the select committee, said in the statement. “But the Confucius Institute is only one tool in the CCP’s toolbox.”
“We’re going to continue to dig into the facts to make sure that no American taxpayer dollars are supporting research partnerships that the CCP can exploit for its own purposes,” he added.
Confucius Institutes are a part of the Chinese government’s efforts to engage other countries in cultural events, academic seminars and business conferences, according to the Congressional Research Service. The first Confucius Institute opened in the United States in 2005 at the University of Maryland, which closed in 2020.
In May 2022, Alfred University was awarded a $13.5 million contract to support a project with the U.S. Army to “conduct advanced manufacturing and characterization research of high temperature materials,” according to an announcement from Alfred University. That research was meant to help materials withstand the extreme temperatures that occur when cruise missiles travel at hypersonic speeds.
This week’s announcement comes after the committee said it would investigate Alfred University over hosting its institute. Gallagher sent a letter on May 31 to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, where he requested information about the Pentagon’s efforts to protect the United States’ military research.
The 2021 National Defense Authorization Act prohibited the Pentagon from providing funds to colleges and universities that host a Confucius Institute. The 2021 NDAA gave universities a deadline of October 1, 2023, to end their relationships with the Chinese government-linked groups.
To date, three universities continue to conduct “sensitive military research” while hosting a Confucius Institute on its campus, according to the statement. The University of Toledo and University of Utah continue to host the institutes on their campuses. St. Cloud State University has paused its institute’s operations while the university conducts a review, according to the National Association of Scholars.
Alfred University did not respond to request for comment. More than 100 universities and colleges have closed — or are in the process of closing — their Confucius Institutes.
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.