Smith Introduces Legislation to Counter China’s Harmful Political Influence
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Global Human Rights and International Organizations, reintroduced legislation (HR 1811) on Monday to counter malign political operations in the U.S. conducted by the Chinese government.
“Beijing’s influence operations are sophisticated and threatening. They include efforts to coerce and corrupt U.S. interests, institutions and individuals, while fostering attitudes and outcomes favorable to the Chinese Communist Party,” Smith said. “My bill would help ensure that Congress and the American public are fully informed of China’s malign goals, and would help identify the key institutions, entities, and individuals that carry out these activities.”
Smith’s legislation requires an unclassified U.S. government interagency report on political influence operations of the Chinese Communist Party within the U.S., in order to examine the scope of the threat from China as well as to establish accountability and transparency.
The bill also includes policy statements requiring Confucius Institutes and other Chinese government funded entities to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. These institutes—of which there are approximately 100 in the United States—are educational programs set up at American schools where the Chinese government approves teachers, directors, events, and speakers.
A recent GAO report—that Smith requested—found serious concerns about academic censorship at Confucius Institutes of topics that could feature criticism of China, such as the “Three T’s” of Taiwan, Tibet, and Tiananmen. Another report on Confucius Institutes by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations also said that contracts between teachers and the Chinese government could be terminated if teachers ‘violate Chinese laws,’ ‘engage in activities detrimental to national interests,’ or ‘participate in illegal organizations.’
“As a recent GAO report shows, when tailored by the Chinese government, programs at universities can be synonymous with academic malware seeking to influence young minds. There are serious and well-founded concerns about academic censorship and self-censorship at these institutes,” Smith said.
Smith’s legislation also supports the protection of the Chinese-American community and members of the Chinese, Uyghur, and Tibetan diasporas from being targeted by China’s political influence operations.
“We need to empower Chinese-Americans and visiting Chinese students with the knowledge that coercion and threats from Beijing are an unacceptable intrusion of their civil liberties and will not be tolerated,” Smith said.