Chinese students must now learn to think like Xi Jinping


BEIJING – It is important to strengthen the “determination to listen and follow the party”. In addition, teaching materials should “cultivate patriotic feelings”. This is what the new guidelines of the Chinese Ministry of Education say.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more “Marxist beliefs,” and in return, the government wants its national curriculum to include “Xi Jinping Thought,” the ideas of China’s current leader.

Xi Jinping has been the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party congress, he presented a doctrine in the most captivating party prose: “Xi Jinping’s ideas of socialism with a Chinese character in the new age.”

Behind this congestion of words lies a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi itself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shock waves across China since 2017. It has been repeated in newspapers, on television, and on posters and banners posted in many cities. But now the People’s Republic is going one step further: It is bringing “Xi Jinping Thought” to schools.

From September the 300 million students in the country will have to study teaching from elementary school to university. And in some cities even that doesn’t seem enough. Shanghai announced that its third to fifth grade students would only take final exams in math and Chinese and de facto cut English as an exam subject. Beijing meanwhile announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn’t English as a world language the quickest route to isolation?

Education reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from technology giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese tech companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on going public in the US is on the cards in the next few years.

Books about Xi-Jinping at the Hong Kong Book Fair 2021

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk / SOPA Images / ZUMA

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Orientation towards pop culture

The regime also goes massively against them Entertainment industry. Pop star Kris Wu was arrested for rape. Movies and TV series starring Zhao Wei have disappeared from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

The developments show that China is trying more and more to decouple from the West. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from fame, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for “profound economic, financial, cultural and political change”, “revolution” and “return from capitalists to the masses”. Party media shared the text on their websites. Apparently the analysis at party headquarters generated more than just a few nods.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, Managing Director of Education Network China, an initiative to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that the curriculum reform is not surprising against this background.

“The emphasis on ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ is used in all areas of society,” he says. “It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system.”

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn’t make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent-minded citizens. And yet Kristin Kupfer, a sinology professor at the University of Trier, recommends that the ideologically charged school lessons not necessarily be interpreted as a weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, this could also be interpreted as a signal of strength. “It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so consistently,” added Kupfer. “Initial responses from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has aroused fear and dissatisfaction among the population.”

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