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China institutes on US campus: Fount of learning or threat?

By MATTHEW PENNINGTON
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - As tensions between the U.S. and China rise over trade and security, perceptions vary wildly about educational exchanges that have thrived since diplomatic relations were normalized four decades ago.

Increasingly, U.S. authorities are concerned that Chinese professors and students could exploit access to universities to gather intelligence and sensitive research - an issue a Senate judiciary panel will address Wednesday. And while the China-funded Confucius Institutes that have mushroomed worldwide since 2004 focus on benign subject matter, U.S. lawmakers are pushing for them to be more tightly regulated or even shuttered.

The debate over Confucius Institutes has become a testing ground for the American response to China's growing global reach, and underscores anxieties over the more than 350,000 Chinese who study in the United States, more than one third of all foreign students.

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