Patriotic education plans to boost enthusiasm for 1949 anniversary

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 June, 2009, 12:00am

Beijing is set to launch a round of 'unprecedented patriotic education' as the centrepiece of official celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. The campaign, lasting until October, would target the younger generation, the semi-official Hong Kong China News Agency said yesterday.

Experts said the new campaign would be another tool for the state to limit ideological freedom, noting that modern patriotic education had been significantly beefed up since 1989, when the central government cracked down forcefully on student-led protests for democracy.

Patriotic messages would be beamed across the mainland through exhibitions, public talks, variety shows and the internet, the report said.

Billed as 'the new patriotism', the campaign would emphasise openness, tolerance and rationality, the report quoted sources saying.

An observer said the new patriotism would 'abandon narrow- mindedness and blend with internationalism'.

A poll conducted by state media was cited as showing that close to 88 per cent of mainland university students were confident of building a socialist country with Chinese characteristics.

The latest campaign adds to a long history of patriotic education in China, even pre-dating 1949.

Mainland patriotism now blends the concept of the Communist Party, the government and the country together, with people taught to love the party before anything else.

Last month, the government released details of a fourth batch of 'patriotic demonstration bases' to bring the number of such sites to 356. Most are linked to the revolutionary activities of the People's Liberation Army.

On the 90th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement last month, the government highlighted patriotism as a core part of the movement's spirit.

The anniversary was tricky for the Communist Party, because the students who took to the streets in 1919 were demanding democracy and demonstrating against the peace treaty that ended the first world war. The protest ended violently and marked a surge in nationalism.

Xu Youyu, a professor of philosophy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the government had been intensifying patriotic education over the years to consolidate its grip.

'This shows how unconfident the party is. It feels the need to teach people to be patriotic because it's losing their faith,' he said.

Professor Xu added that the government preached patriotic values in an attempt to offset the influence of other universal principles.

'In the short run, it is possible to brainwash the young generations, but this comes at a price for the country's development,' he said.

With China's international power on the rise, nationalism was evident among young people last year on occasions such as the recovery from the Sichuan earthquake and the Olympic Games.