Chinese-owned private schools in US shouldn’t have junior military programs, GOP lawmaker says

Mike Waltz
Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., gestures during a news conference with Republicans, mainly veterans and medical professionals, who support Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for Speaker of the House, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Chinese-owned private schools in US shouldn’t have junior military programs, GOP lawmaker says

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American private schools owned by Chinese government-linked groups would not be allowed to operate junior military programs if a bill introduced Monday by Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL) succeeds.

The proposal, obtained by the Washington Examiner, would bar private schools with ties to the Chinese Communist Party from starting or continuing Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or JROTC, programs.

Waltz told the Washington Examiner in an interview that the concern about Chinese-operated JROTC programs stems in part from the reality that the programs aim to provide the military with its next generation of leaders.

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But he said the concerns about Chinese involvement in military schools and programs are broader than individual students who may go on to become officers.

“This is just even broader than education — anything that is owned or controlled by China, by law under the national security law that [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping] has passed, has to essentially do the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party, whether that is a student that may have access to a university supercomputer or whether that is a company that is told to act in a certain manner,” Waltz said. “It is against Chinese law for them not to respond” to what the CCP requests, he noted.

At least one Chinese-owned private school currently runs a JROTC program, and Congress does not yet know how many more exist.

Florida Preparatory Academy has continued to operate its JROTC program after a Chinese corporation purchased the school in 2017.

While the school’s president denied any foreign interference in the academy’s JROTC program, Waltz has cited the involvement of the chairman of the academy’s parent company, Zhou Dengguang, with the Chinese Communist Party.

Waltz asked the Pentagon in January to assess how many private schools with JROTC programs had foreign owners, the Washington Free Beacon reported last month.

Chinese companies have ramped up their investments in American private schools and boarding schools in recent years as China has sought to broaden its influence in the United States.

A Chinese private equity firm purchased a private school system in California in 2017, for example, assuming control of dozens of schools with educational offerings ranging from preschool to eighth grade.

A desire to give their younger children a greater chance of acceptance at U.S. universities has driven some of the Chinese interest in private schools, Chinese state media reported.

“Chinese investors are starting to target the lucrative market of private schools” in the U.S., China Daily reported in 2017.

But Waltz warned that China’s interest in buying up private schools could go beyond that.

“We know that they’re seeking to influence the next generation of Americans, both in their views of the CCP and of democracy, capitalism — you know, basic tenets of our society,” he said.

China’s foray into American private education has already hit close to home for a former president.

Former President Donald Trump’s alma mater, the New York Military Academy, shuttered its JROTC program in 2019 after years of the program continuing under Chinese ownership.

A Chinese-backed group purchased the school in 2015 after the academy filed for bankruptcy and was sold at auction.

Despite the closure of its JROTC program, however, the New York Military Academy still operates a “military leadership program,” according to the school’s website.

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JROTC programs often serve as pipelines for future military officers interested in serving in the military.

“This program is conducted at accredited secondary schools throughout the Nation, by instructors who are retired Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard officers and enlisted personnel,” the Defense Department says of JROTC.

Waltz said he expects bipartisan support for his bill. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) co-sponsored the legislation.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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