Trump Admn Cracks Whip on Think Tanks, Asks Them to Show Foreign Funding Details

The complicated relations between the US and China have resulted in Washington DC scrutinizing links between academic institutions and foreign countries

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has requested the think tanks and other foreign policy organizations to disclose the funding they receive from foreign governments in order to curb the influence of foreign governments such as People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation over the US foreign policy.

Pompeo said: "We hope one day soon that U.S. efforts to promote free and open dialogue about economic and personal liberty, equal citizenship, the rule of law and authentic civil society, will be possible in places such as China and Russia."

The move is being seen as Trump administration's efforts to scrutinize Chinese influence in the country as relations between the two countries continue to deteriorate. In the past few months, the government has unleashed a crackdown on academic institutions receiving Chinese funding and links with China's Thousand Talents Plan, an effort to recruit foreign expertise.

The Confucius Institutes, which promote Chinese language and culture, have also come under scrutiny across the world for being the Chinese government's propaganda tools. In the US, Arizona State and San Diego State are among universities to close down their CIs.

US China flag
US China flags Reuters

Following the suit are UK, France, Sweden, and Denmark. Even Canada's New Brunswick province has announced removal of the Confucius programs from its public schools. India is among the countries scrutinizing the links between CI programs in its universities and Hanban, a controversial agency under China's education ministry.

India's Stand

Talking to the IB Times, Ashwani Mahajan, National Co-Convener of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, which is an Indian political and cultural organization, said both India and the US are democracies and by funding NGOs and think tanks, foreign agencies try to destabilize the countries.

In democratic set-up, every institution has its importance but if they start working on foreign funding to fulfill their agendas, it is not acceptable. Every country has right to protect itself from unfair propaganda - Ashwani Mahajan

India recently amended its Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) to regulate foreign donations to the non-government organizations. Mahajan says the US might have taken cue from India as in 2015 the Ministry of Home Affairs had asked NGOs to give an undertaking that "the acceptance of foreign funds is not likely to prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India or impact friendly relations with any foreign state and does not disrupt communal harmony."

The US Defense Department has also stopped funding Chinese-language programs at universities that host CIs. As per the experts, the government fears that the scholarships and programs funded to these academic institutions by foreign countries indirectly gives them access to US scientific and other programs.

Chinese language teacher in Singapore (Representational Picture) Reuters

The country's prominent think tanks such as Atlantic Council and the Brooking Institution have been accused of having influence of foreign money on their scholarship. While detailed influence of the Turkish government at the Atlantic Council in removing experts from its panel was published by a Free Beacon report, Qatar's influence at the Brookings Institution with a $14.8 million donation was pointed out by the New York Times.

In a report by the US media company Politico, the Brookings Institution and Foundation for Defense of Democracies have been quoted denying receiving any funding from Russia or China. The Trump administration has also labeled nine Chinese news organizations as "foreign missions" recently to impose restrictions on them for being propaganda tools.

Donald Trump being elected as President in 2016 has been marred with the allegations of Russian interference. With a few days left for the 2020 elections, FBI Director Christopher Wray has warned lawmakers that Russia is actively interfering in the upcoming U.S. presidential election by spreading misinformation about Democratic nominee Joe Biden.