The State Department is calling on US think tanks other policy groups to publicly disclose how they are funded — or risk forfeiting access to top department brass.
The announcement came Tuesday in a statement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who made the request “to protect the integrity of civil society institutions.”
“The [State] Department requests henceforth that think tanks and other foreign policy organizations that wish to engage with the department disclose prominently on their websites funding they receive from foreign governments, including state-owned or state-operated subsidiary entities,” the nation’s top diplomat said.
Pompeo went on to say that while “disclosure is not a requirement for engaging with such entities,” department staffers would be discouraged from having contact with organizations that declined to make their funding public.
The top Trump administration official praised the department’s “close ties with the academic community, think tanks, and various external sources of expertise in foreign affairs to advance the interests of the United States,” but cautioned that while they welcomed a diversity of opinion, they were mindful of influence efforts by China and Russia.
“The unique role of think tanks in the conduct of foreign affairs makes transparency regarding foreign funding more important than ever,” he argued.
Tuesday’s move was part of a larger effort to crack down on China in response to their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
US-China relations plunged this year over Chinese concealment of early COVID-19 data and over the central government’s elimination of political autonomy in Hong Kong and human rights abuses against the Uighur minority.
The Trump administration in May banned Chinese graduate students and researchers with links to the Chinese military, alleging that university studies were being used as a cover to steal US technology.
As tensions continue to mount between the two nations, the US has also cracked down on other Chinese entities on American soil, such as the Chinese government-backed Confucius Institutes.
In mid-August, the State Department announced that the institutes would be required to register their US headquarters as a foreign mission.
The organization operates 550 Chinese culture and language programs in colleges and universities, including 75 in the US. Last year, a Senate Intelligence subcommittee decried the institutes given that their funding comes “with strings that can compromise academic freedom.”