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Xi Jinping

Xi calls for more thought control on China’s campuses

President uses high-level meeting on tertiary education to demand that professors and students be made to toe party line

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 December, 2016, 7:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 December, 2016, 7:03am

President Xi Jinping has called for allegiance to the Communist Party from colleges and universities, the latest effort by Beijing to tighten ideological control over education.

Universities and colleges would be the “stronghold of the party’s leadership”, Xi told the country’s top cadres on Thursday, urging increased ideological guidance for post-secondary students.

Tertiary educational institutes were responsible for educating the next generation of communist leaders, and they should “firmly uphold the correct political direction”, Xi said at the meeting held in Beijing, which was attended by dozens of senior officials from various central government departments.

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Xi’s remarks are part of an ongoing ideological campaign in academia. A year ago, then minister of education Yuan Guiren declared Western values “not suitable for class”, causing an outcry at home and concern overseas.

The two-day meeting on ideological and political work at the mainland’s universities and colleges, which concluded yesterday, was attended by academic officials as well as by Xi and three other members of the party’s innermost Politburo Standing Committee.

Other senior officials outside of education and propaganda departments also attended, underscoring the importance attached to the meeting.

The party should “make political education more interesting and focused for students”, Xi said.

“Courses of all kinds should be in the same direction as political courses.”

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The party bosses at several key universities also attended the meeting, and pledged renewed loyalty to the party.

Chen Xu, party chief at the prestigious Tsinghua University, was quoted by China Education Daily as saying that instructors’ political stances would be made central to their performance evaluations, and that faculty and department party committees would routinely report on the political thoughts of young lecturers.

A party official from the Guangdong-based South China Normal University told Xi that it had built a database to track and analyse political opinions of more than 2 million college students in the province.

A professor with the Beijing Institute of Technology said that it planned to introduce electronic games to make political education more appealing, and raise the political awareness of its students “subliminally”, the website of People’s Daily reported yesterday.

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Chen Daoyin, a political scientist at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said that Xi’s remarks came after years of ineffective political indoctrination of college students, adding that Western theories had long dominated the social sciences.

“Almost all [mainland] universities have an institute for Marxism, but they turn out to be very ineffective,” Chen said. “Students mostly find them repellent, and I think Beijing knows it, too.”

Colleges were told not to talk about Western ideas, including freedom of speech and the separation of political powers, in 2013, Chen said. “Beijing is trying to make its political ideas genuinely accepted by the students, but I think that can’t be forced,” he added.