U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with Fox Business on Tuesday, Sept. 1. that he hoped the Chinese Confucius Institute’s cultural centers on U.S. campuses would all be closed by the end of the year.

According to Pompeo’s statements, the institutes in question are funded by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and have become deeply involved in spying activities within U.S. universities, including introducing spies and collaborators into the academy. “I think everyone’s coming to see the risk associated with them,” he said. 

The CCP opened a total of 75 Confucius Institutes in the United States where Americans can learn Chinese and about Chinese culture. Sixty-five of these are located within U.S. universities. The charges against the institutes are that they are not mere educational centers, but propaganda bases of the Chinese Communist Party used to spread and propagate leftist ideals, among other things.

In mid-August the State Department had already described the center that administers the Confucius Institutes in the United States as “an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign on the U.S.” and required that it register as a foreign mission.

David Stilwell, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, said at the time that the dozens of Confucius Institutes on U.S. campuses were not being expelled, but that U.S. universities should “take a hard look” at what the institutes were doing on campus.

According to Taiwan News, the CCP has responded by accusing the White House of “demonizing and stigmatizing the normal functioning of China-U.S. cooperation projects.”

It also reports that it is not only the United States that is looking cautiously at the Confucius Institutes. As recently as last week, Japan’s chief of staff, Yoshihide Suga, said the government will keep a closer eye on some 15 such centers on university campuses around the country, including the prestigious Waseda University.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, during a press conference on Friday, condemned Pompeo’s statements and pointed out to the government of the United States, “We urge the American side to abandon the Cold War mentality,” he emphasized.

The world’s two largest economies are going through the worst moment in their relationship in recent years. Disagreements range from issues with the handling of the CCP virus pandemic, to the national security law for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, to the Trump administration’s espionage charges against the Chinese consulate general in Houston.