Confucius Institutes, Beijing-sponsored educational organizations aimed at promoting Chinese language and culture on global university campuses are a major example of how Beijing is looking to alter global narratives.
Seen as an arm of the Chinese state, these institutes are controversial due to a lack of transparency and constant self-censorship on China-related topics, which many believe is a clear disregard of academic freedoms. "Confucius Institutes are far and away the best known vehicle by which the Chinese government is carving out a space in American education," Glenn Tiffert, visiting fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, said at the CECC hearing.
The Chinese state also monitors foreign academics, he added. "We are routinely targeted by malware, phishing schemes, and fake social media profiles designed to compromise our information security, and our Chinese informants. In many instances, our Chinese colleagues are already under surveillance, and face far more harrowing constraints."
Down Under, there are similiar fears.
The head of Australia's domestic intelligence agency warned in October that Canberra must be "very conscious" of foreign interference in universities," which includes the behavior of both foreign students and foreign consular staff in relation to university lecturers.
"Chinese security forces have reportedly engaged in a campaign to monitor Chinese nationals, including many students — even warning them not to offer any criticism of Beijing lest their relatives in China be harmed," Joshua Kurlantzick, senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a recent note.