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Indiana AG Investigates Valparaiso University’s China Ties

Todd Rokita slams 'negligent' administrators who let China influence students

Indiana attorney general Todd Rokita (R.) / YouTube screenshot
and • August 12, 2021 1:10 pm

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Indiana's attorney general is cracking down on Valparaiso University for its ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

Attorney General Todd Rokita (R.) on Tuesday launched an investigation into Valparaiso University's chapter of the Confucius Institute, a Chinese Communist Party-backed organization that the State Department in 2020 deemed a national security threat. From 2011 to 2019, Valparaiso took more than $1.1 million from the Chinese Communist Party without specifying its uses.

Rokita told the Washington Free Beacon he launched the investigation after many of his constituents expressed concern about China's influence in Indiana.

"China unleashed a virus on the world, they continue to steal our intellectual property, they are human rights abusers, now they're calling us out on the international stage," he said. "It's in our state's interest to keep China accountable—this is one way to do that."

Schools have shuttered their Confucius Institute chapters in recent years as government officials and concerned faculty warned of Chinese espionage and challenges to academic freedom. Valparaiso's Confucius Institute is 1 of 41 Confucius Institute chapters still in operation as of July 2021, down from over 100 in 2017.

Valparaiso University did not return the Free Beacon‘s request for comment. In a statement to the Indianapolis Star, the university said it has been "transparent and compliant" when reporting funds from China.

"Valparaiso University does not and would not support any kind of endeavor that furthers or promotes communist ideology," the school said in a statement affirming its "Christian mission and purpose and … strong support of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that protects the freedom of speech and religion."

But the Confucius Institute is not Valparaiso's only Chinese connection. The school runs an exchange program with Zhejiang University, a school with ties to the Chinese military. Zhejiang supports three Chinese military research labs, and American authorities have flagged the school for scientific and economic espionage.

According to the website of Valparaiso's Confucius Institute, the chapter also works with three Confucius Classrooms—the institute's K-12 arm—and six other outreach programs at local schools. The Free Beacon reported in July that China is using Confucius Classrooms and exchange programs to exert influence on American education.

Rokita slammed school administrators for their "negligent and insidious decision" to let China-backed groups influence Indiana students.

China is not the only country attempting to influence American schools. Under former president Trump, the Education Department investigated several American universities for failing to disclose $6.5 billion of gifts from countries including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.