China’s top colleges to face ideological inspections
Government’s discipline and anti-graft agency to carry out checks amid tightening control to ensure universities toe the Communist Party line
The Communist Party’s top discipline and anti-graft watchdog is to dispatch inspection teams to China’s top-tier universities to check whether they are toeing the party line as the country’s college campuses fall under increasingly tight ideological control.
Graft busters will investigate 29 of the best universities across the mainland in the coming months, including the prestigious Peking University and Tsinghua University in Beijing, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said on its website on Wednesday night.
All universities in China are under the control of a Communist Party committee and the nomination of teaching staff at colleges comes under the guidance of the party. Academic debate and discussion can be censored if it breaches ideological guidelines.
The party’s ideological control of colleges has intensified since President Xi Jinping came to power in late 2012.
Mainland universities received orders the following year to steer clear of seven topics while teaching, including universal values, press freedom and civil rights.
The discipline watchdog’s latest inspections came after Xi called during a high-level meeting in December for the country’s colleges to pledge allegiance to the Communist Party.
Xi vowed at the meeting to turn the country’s universities into “strongholds of the party’s leadership” which “firmly uphold the correct political direction” and ensure that orthodox Marxism dominates the minds of their scholars and students.
The anticorruption watchdog said inspectors should use Xi’s speech as a benchmark to check if the universities were following the right direction.
The checklist includes whether colleges have strong “political awareness”, the understanding to safeguard Xi’s status as “core” leader and recognition of the need to toe the party line.
Universities also need to check whether the party’s guiding principles for education have been fully implemented and whether colleges were run in the “correct direction”.
Universities’ party committee members, as well as other cadres, will be placed under special scrutiny, the discipline commission said.
China’s top universities were often in the past at the forefront of social and political change, a fact that appears to deeply trouble Beijing.
Students from Peking University were prominent in the prodemocracy movement and protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
The communist party’s persistent crackdowns on academic freedom in campuses, however, have reduced their attraction for overseas students considering studying on the mainland, even though some schools boast state-of-art facilities and date back well before the establishment of communist rule.
Tsinghua University has lowered the entrance requirements for overseas students to try to attract more foreign scholars. Stanford University in the United States has decided to indefinitely suspend its undergraduate overseas studies programme at Peking University campus because of low enrolment.
The anti-graft watchdog will also try to root out any corruption within universities.
One high-profile graft case involved a student recruitment official at Renmin University in Beijing, Cai Rongsheng, who admitted two years ago taking millions of yuan in bribes to help unqualified applicants enrol at the college.
This latest round of anticorruption inspections will also target a range of other government departments, provincial authorities and state enterprises.
These include inspections in Inner Mongolia, Jilin, Yunnan and Shaanxi provinces, plus
the general office of the Central Leading Group for Internet Security, the State Council Leading Group Office for Poverty Alleviation and Development, the China Railway Corporation and the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation.