A Republican congressman is speaking out about how the Chinese Communist Party is influencing U.S. classrooms.
“Well, they come in, and they sort of soft-pedal their propaganda, but yet, they also whitewash history by eliminating Taiwan,” says Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Fla., chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s early childhood, elementary, and secondary education subcommittee.
“You can’t talk about Taiwan. You can’t talk about Tiananmen Square. You can’t talk about the Uyghurs. You can’t talk about Tibet, the Dalai Lama—all these things that they are influencing and really trying to grasp the young minds of young students to say how great China is,” adds Bean, who was elected to Congress last November.
Bean joins today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss a hearing his subcommittee held Tuesday, “Academic Freedom Under Attack: Loosening the CCP’s Grip on America’s Classrooms”; the Confucius Classrooms located throughout the U.S.; and what’s at stake if the U.S. isn’t able to counter the communist regime’s influence in American classrooms.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Samantha Aschieris: Today I have the honor of welcoming Rep. Aaron Bean of Florida’s 4th Congressional District to “The Daily Signal Podcast.” Rep. Bean was elected to Congress in 2022 and is the chairman of the subcommittee on early childhood, elementary, and secondary education. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
Rep. Aaron Bean: Samantha, what an honor it is to be here in your studio.
Aschieris: Of course. Now, earlier this week on Tuesday, your subcommittee held a hearing titled “Academic Freedom Under Attack: Loosening the CCP’s Grip on America’s Classrooms.” In your opening remarks, you said that the influence of the Chinese Communist Party is rampant in America’s classrooms and that over 500 K-12 schools across the United States have allowed the CCP to establish itself in their halls under the guise of Confucius Classrooms. First and foremost, tell us a little bit more about Confucius Classrooms.
Bean: So, first of all, China has been aggressively maneuvering itself in the world for decades. And I like to tell everybody, I think America has first woken up to the aggressive nature of the Communist Chinese Party. The wake-up call came in the form of a Chinese spy balloon and now Americans are waking up.
So this conversation and study came from a report from a group called Parents Defending Education. They found 143 of what’s called Confucius Institutes, which some, it’s under the guise, the disguise is it’s a goodwill move by China to put a cultural center. They give money, they give volunteers to teach the language and the culture. But what we’ve discovered, it’s just a front to spread propaganda by the Communist Chinese Party.
Aschieris: Can you speak more to between this report and what we heard at the hearing on Tuesday, how the CCP is influencing our classrooms?
Bean: Well, they come in and they soft-pedal their propaganda, but yet, they also whitewash history by eliminating Taiwan. You can’t talk about Taiwan. You can’t talk about Tiananmen Square. You can’t talk about the Uyghurs. You can’t talk about Tibet, the Dalai Lama. All these things that they are influencing and really trying to grasp the young minds of young students to say how great China is.
So we are raising that alarm. We’re raising the red flag, really, to let everybody know this is happening and schools need to be aware of what’s going on.
Aschieris: Just regarding the conversation, we’ve had Nicole Neily, actually, who was a witness on Tuesday on the show before to talk about the report that you referenced, “Little Red Classrooms.” Why was it important for you to not only host this hearing but also bring attention to this issue?
Bean: Well, let’s call Nicole Neily what she is. She’s a fireball, a fireball for freedom. She stood courageously to say, “This is happening, America. Let’s wake up.” Because we just ignore it. So many people ignore it. It’s important to know.
She also has flagged—it’s a red flag, by the way, so let’s be clear what that is as well. A red flag on, they’re really focused on schools surrounding our military bases. So they’re focused on kids, the sons and daughters of our service men and women, at these bases. So they know exactly what they’re doing.
People like Nicole Neily and Parents Defending Education have, I guess, raised that flag and said, “This is happening America. We all need to be aware of it. Schools need to be aware of it.”
I’m going to tell you the biggest shocker. The biggest shocker for me—you were there. You were there, Samantha. You were there and you watched the hearing. I guess I’m a naive new congressman. I’ve been there nine months now. We came in and there is a lot of fighting between parties and I keep thinking, “What issue, what issue is going to bring us together?”
Whenever our committee was two days ago, I would’ve bet the farm that this issue, China invading America through our classrooms, you know what? This is going to be the issue that brings parties together. Shocker. They were on the other side. Democrats seem to excuse it or say it’s Asian American racism. They ignore the problem and how we want to welcome culture and how important it is to learn the language.
So this is not the issue that brought the parties together. So thank goodness there were a lot of folks like Dr. Virginia Foxx who stood up for freedom, Lisa McLean, Burgess Owens, so many other patriots. Mary Miller stood up and said that we need to call the Chinese what they are, propagandists trying to take the minds of American youth.
Aschieris: You just brought up the military bases with these Confucius Classrooms surrounding them. I think, if I’m remembering correctly, at least in the “Little Red Classrooms” report, there were 20 that they were able to identify around the military bases. In terms of what you were talking about in your opening statement with the 500 K-12 schools, where are some of those located throughout the country?
Bean: They’re in 34 states. So you think, if you’re listening in, there’s a great chance that your state has one or two in them.
To call attention to it—Oklahoma had a handful. We heard from Ryan Walker yesterday, who’s one of the senior leaders in education in Oklahoma, that they started having a requirement that if you’re accepting money from foreign influences, particularly China, then everyone needs to know it, and he’s had success with reporting requirements.
That’s something that we need to study going forward to make sure that maybe that’s an option to prevent, or at least let everybody know this is what’s happening.
Aschieris: Absolutely. Something I also wanted to highlight from the hearing that you talked about were the risks associated with Confucius Classrooms. You talked about how they’re threatening America’s national geopolitical and academic interests. First and foremost, let’s talk about national security. What are the risks associated with Confucius Classrooms in relation to national security?
Bean: Well, we’re allowing our enemy—and let’s be clear, China is moving as an adversary. They are making strategic moves around the globe to thwart American influence. They’re buying up mining rights in Africa and South America, these countries to dominate a lot of the rare earth minerals that are the future of our production. They know exactly what they’re doing, and so we need to wake up.
They’re promoting apps like TikTok that record and spy on our young people and everybody that is on those types of platforms. So all this information can and perhaps could be used against us and maneuvers going forward, as they’re getting aggressive and they’re maneuvering. So that is definitely a national concern for us.
Aschieris: Also, just to continue on with geopolitical interests, if you could speak more to that?
Bean: Well, we just need to be aware. They told us when this Chinese spy balloon, the administration said, “Oh, don’t be alarmed.” First of all, it was a weather balloon. Then it was just simply off course. Then it was just following the winds, but yet it always seemed to hover over our military bases and just long enough to take multiple pictures. In Montana for some of our missile sites, I think it circled more than three times to make sure it got the clear pictures. Only when it left airspace did we shoot it down.
We were told, Samantha, we were told, “Don’t worry. They’re not recording. They’re not taking pictures. They’re not doing anything.” They were. Oh, we were told, “Don’t worry. They’re not transmitting in real time.” They were.
So this administration, and that’s another discussion of why they didn’t shoot down the spy balloon immediately, are they compromised? That’s another conversation, too. It certainly has raised America’s attention that China is not a friend.
Aschieris: Then just finally, academic interests, if you could expand on this and just walk us through what you talked about on Tuesday’s hearing with regard to academic interests?
Bean: Well, they want to rewrite history. China wants to rewrite history and China wants to whitewash history. We want to be clear today, and so your listeners know, we are not trying to be at war with the Chinese people. We’re not trying to push back against the rich culture of China. But it’s the government. The government is the one that’s actively being aggressive and trying to, as all the things we mentioned that you can’t talk about Taiwan and Tiananmen Square.
We heard Rep. Brandon Williams from New York who was in China at the time Tiananmen Square went down and he also has a great story to tell of how that went down. Now, that’s erased from history if you’re in China, because we know they’re not about freedom. They’re about control. Our heart aches for the 1.4 billion people that are under the control of tyranny and repression.
So that’s something that we’re standing up to. That’s something that we’re raising the red flag to, and hopefully the hearing brought attention.
Samantha, I think we’re already at a success. If you and this podcast are spreading that message, we’re raising the flag that everybody needs to know that China needs to be watched. They’re an aggressor, they’re not our friend, they’re an agitator, and we need to put them in a corner.
Aschieris: What’s at stake if we aren’t able, in the United States, to counter this influence of the Chinese Communist Party in our own classrooms?
Bean: It’s only going to grow. Their influence is only going to grow. Another topic on another podcast, we can talk about their infiltration of higher ed, of the universities that have accepted money from the Communist Chinese Party. What happens there? They continue to spread their influence.
They also, Samantha, they steal our stuff. They steal our technology. We’ve had hearings on college campuses how they come in and they’ll have a donor that will give this college money, but they always want to focus it on the computer lab or on the quantum physics department or whatnot. They get their hooks into that technology, and whatever comes out, they steal it.
So we’re also telling universities that they need to be keenly aware that China’s on the move. We just don’t need to sell out for money. We need to be aware that this is going to have long-term impacts on our country if we’re not aware of it.
Aschieris: Absolutely. Congressman, just before we go, what are the next steps? We have this hearing on Tuesday. We had the witnesses come forward, with regard to the “Little Red Classrooms” report. What happens now?
Bean: I think we’re going to look at legislation just to have reporting requirements, that everybody that’s accepted money from foreign influence needs to report it. It needs to be widely known who’s doing what and what they’re up to, and then really examine China who’s been aggressively doing this. So we need to let everybody know that they’re out there, they’re on the prowl, and so we need to be aware.
So maybe, I don’t know, in the coming months, this is something that will be introduced. Dr. Foxx has talked about it, our committee has talked about it, and hopefully we’ll have a product. We’ve got work to do, because I’ve already mentioned there were people in our committee that refuse to acknowledge that this is even a problem.
Aschieris: With that, I just wanted to give you opportunity, final thoughts. If there’s anything, key takeaways that you want our audience members to know about Confucius Classrooms and the work that your subcommittee is doing.
Bean: You’ve got a lot of people that want to keep our country free and strong and to be aware that there are countries, bad actors that want to harm us as a country. And so I think you’ve got a lot of patriots in Congress that are working to do that.
I want to thank you. That committee, Samantha, you get credit for sticking around. That was a very long committee. We heard from a lot of people. For you to stick with us and then to talk about it on this podcast is certainly appreciated and to be commended.
Aschieris: Of course. Well, we appreciate you coming into the studio. It’s such an important topic that we will certainly be continuing to follow. Congressman Aaron Bean of Florida’s 4th congressional District, thanks so much for joining us.
Bean: Thanks, Samantha. Have a great day.
Samantha Aschieris is a senior news producer for The Daily Signal.
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