A hearing about the Chinese Communist Party’s funding of American K-12 education took a surprising turn when the Democrats’ witness — and several members of the House Education and Workforce Committee — took pains to conflate opposing foreign investments in public schools with Asian-American hatred.
Gisela Perez Kusakawa, the executive director of the Asian American Scholar Forum (AASF), kicked off her remarks by linking concern over the Chinese Communist Party’s investments in public schools to America’s incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War Two. Warning the Asian-American youth could end up as “collateral damage,” Kusakawa repeatedly conflated opposing the CCP with anti-Asian-American racism.
Cockburn found this peculiar and nonsensical, so decided to take a closer look at Kusakawa’s organization and its partners. Your intrepid reporter required a fainting couch, because to Cockburn’s great surprise, the CCP has its fingerprints all over AASF. Several organizations it partners with are Chinese universities, like Tsinghua University and Peking University — two organizations that China watchdog groups view as massive red flags.
The China Defence Universities Tracker labels Tsinghua, the alma mater of Xi Jinping, as “very high risk for its high level of defence research and alleged involvement in cyber attacks.” Peking is designated as “high risk for its involvement in defence research and links to China’s nuclear weapons program.” Beyond the universities it partners with, some of AASF’s scholars have taught at these high-risk defense universities. Princeton professor Yu Xie, for example, is also a visiting chair professor of the Center for Social Research at Peking University.
Democrats spent much of the hearing accusing the opposition of “divisive, anti-Asian politics and conspiracy theories.” Nicki Neily, a Republican-called witness and the head of Parents Defending Education, said that the bigger instance of systemic racism against Asian-Americans has been how schools like Harvard denied qualified Asian applicants for years under the guise of diversity.
One of the most amusing comments came from Democratic representative Suzanne Bonamici, who expressed concern that without the Chinese-funded Confucius Institutes that are littered across the university landscape, Americans wouldn’t be able to learn Chinese! Cockburn would happily provide the esteemed Oregonian with a link to download Duolingo, and even provide directions to her local library.
Some good China news though — Cockburn notes that the hearing coincided with bipartisan legislation being introduced that would directly tackle the problems the hearing spotlighted. Republicans Dave Joyce and Elise Stefanik, along with Democratic Representative Ed Case, unveiled the CLASS Act to prohibit K-12 schools from accepting any money from or entering into contracts with the Chinese Government or the Chinese Communist Party.
By Cockburn’s notes, this marks the first time legislation has been introduced to explicitly prohibit American schools from accepting Beijing yuan. While Cockburn doesn’t control universities curriculum, Cockburn can make assurances to Representative Bonamici that she’ll still be able to learn Chinese.