Fact Check: Did Biden Revoke a Trump Ban on Chinese Communist Propaganda in Schools?

Supporters of a policy signed by President Donald Trump at the 11th hour of his term are denouncing President Joe Biden for withdrawing the order, a move they claimed will allow the Chinese Communist Party to disseminate propaganda in U.S. schools.

The Claim

On Monday, the conservative newspaper The National Pulse published an article with the headline "Biden Quietly Revokes Trump's Ban On Chinese Communist Propaganda In Schools."

Right-wing news outlets, pundits, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and others quickly chastised Biden for "rewarding China by allowing their propaganda to infiltrate our college campuses."

Conservatives, including McCarthy, submitted their commentary on Twitter, echoing the article's claim that the withdrawal of a Trump order, pushed through before Biden's inauguration on January 20, will allow the Chinese Communist Party to disseminate misinformation in American schools.

It has been a year since the Chinese Communist Party let a pandemic spread around the world.

Instead of holding them accountable for hiding the truth, the Biden Admin is rewarding China by allowing their propaganda to infiltrate our college campuses. https://t.co/ASzmkDGIcX

— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) February 9, 2021

The Facts

In August 2020, the Trump administration declared the Confucius Institute (CI) U.S. Center a foreign mission of the Chinese Communist Party, accusing the controversial educational partnership of being a propaganda operation on U.S. college and K-12 campuses.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said the institute, which is considered a cultural organization and teaches Mandarin and Chinese culture to U.S. students, is designed for "spreading communist propaganda and spying on Chinese students studying in the free world."

"Beijing's public diplomacy relies on these communist outposts so they should be forced to register as foreign missions," Sasse said, according to AP. "Teaching Mandarin at campus institutes is mainly a cover story for Chinese Communist Party spying."

The BBC reported that the schools are a joint venture between a host school, a partner school in China and a controversial agency known as Hanban, which falls under the Chinese education ministry. The CI receives partial funding and other support from Hanban. While there is little direct evidence to support Sasse's assertions, he is not alone in his disdain for the globally established CI.

Some educators, as well as the American Association of University Professors, have said topics that conflict with the CI's "mission," such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet and democracy, are repressed in classrooms. In a BBC interview, CI Chief Executive Madam Xu Lin suggested that the program's teachers should tell inquiring students that "Taiwan belongs to China."

At least 45 K-12 schools and universities in the U.S. have closed their CI programs in recent years, citing the same concerns about academic freedom and pro-China propaganda.

But the Trump administration's foreign mission designation and last-minute executive order on the CI never actually banned the education programs altogether, nor did they issue guidelines on what the programs can and can't teach.

The policy, officially "Establishing Requirement for Student and Exchange Visitor Program Certified Schools to Disclose Agreements with Confucius Institutes and Classrooms," only required colleges and K-12 schools certified to host foreign exchange programs to disclose contracts, partnerships or financial transactions from Confucius Institutes or Confuscius Classrooms, the CI's K-12 component.

It also would have applied to other Chinese cultural institutes or groups funded directly or indirectly by China. Consequences for failure to report such information would have resulted in a school's Student and Exchange Visitor Program certification being revoked.

The Ruling

False.

Biden did revoke a Trump-era policy regarding Chinese-sponsored education programs, but it only required K-12 schools and universities to disclose their ties to such institutions. There never was a ban on "Chinese Communist propaganda" in schools.

Joe Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the national economy and the need for his administration's proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation in the State Dining Room at the White House on February 5, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty