The US Secretary of State renews his calls for US universities to close Beijing-funded Confucius Institutes on campuses.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged U.S. universities to look at China’s aid and students, warning Beijing is determined to steal innovation.
The outgoing senior US diplomat, known for his hawkish views on China, delivered the speech during a visit to Georgia, a state with a growing Asian-American community and which next month holds two polls that will determine which party controls the US Senate.
Pompeo said the United States should welcome Chinese who “really” want to study in the country, but cited two cases of Chinese students accused of spying and other examples of Beijing harassing its students abroad.
“If we don’t educate ourselves, if we’re not honest about what’s going on, we’ll be educated in Beijing,” Pompeo said in a speech at Georgia Tech University on Wednesday.
“The Chinese Communist Party knows that it can never match our innovation,” Pompeo said. “That’s why he sends 400,000 students a year to the United States of America.”
He renewed his calls on US universities to shut down all Confucius Institutes, Beijing-funded institutions that offer education in Chinese but are careful to follow Beijing’s line on politically sensitive matters.
“We need administrators to shut down the Confucius Institutes and investigate the so-called ‘student groups’ supported by CCP money on their campuses,” Pompeo said.
US-China relations have deteriorated sharply in recent years, with President Donald Trump launching a trade war and accusing Beijing of industrial espionage. The administration has also placed Chinese tech giant Huawei on its entity list, preventing U.S. companies from doing business with the company.
Trump also attacked Beijing for its initial response to the coronavirus outbreak, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, and used the term “Kung flu” to refer to the virus.
Pompeo described China as a central threat to the world and said President Trump has turned the page on decades of failed US engagement with Beijing.
President-elect Joe Biden broadly endorsed Beijing’s challenge but adopted a less belligerent tone, with his aides seeing areas of cooperation, such as combating pandemics and climate change.
In his remarks on Wednesday, Pompeo criticized several universities by name, including the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Pompeo said he hoped to deliver his remarks there, but its chairman, Rafael Reif, said his comments “could insult their Chinese students and teachers.”
MIT denied his account, saying he was contacted in August to be the location of Pompeo’s speech and was “honored to be considered.”
Citing assembly limits due to COVID-19, MIT said in a statement that it “had turned down a number of other high-profile guests for the same reasons.”