China’s Xi exhorts intellectuals to help make nation a great scientific power

President says officials should take advice of academics on major projects

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 March, 2017, 11:24pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 March, 2017, 12:29am

President Xi Jinping has called for the country’s intellectuals to take the initiative and play a bigger role in contributing to a better nation.

His remarks on the sidelines of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) on Saturday came as authorities tighten their ideological grip on academics, ordering them to toe the party line.

Saying China is in a crucial year for meeting the objectives of the 13th Five Year Plan and keeping the economy running smoothly, Xi said intellectuals must “waste no time” and make it their “top responsibility” to build an affluent society and make China a great scientific power, Xinhua reported.

The remarks were made at a joint panel meeting of the Chinese Peasants’ and Workers’ Democratic Party, the Jiu San Society and the China Association for Promoting Democracy. The members of the three groups are mostly intellectuals involved in medicine, education, culture, science and technology.

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Xi called on all of society to respect intellectuals and make bold efforts to attract talent in all fields to work for the party cause.

Government officials were told to not only become “good friends” with intellectuals but also friends who could share candid insights. Officials were told to have full confidence in intellectuals and consult them in major work and projects.

“[We] should warmly welcome opinions and criticism from intellectuals as long as they mean well. [We] will embrace the right ones and be more tolerant of some which are biased or even wrong,” Xi said.

The remarks were in stark contrast to earlier demands from authorities for unconditional support for the Communist Party by academics and stricter ideological controls of curriculum.

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In a seminar last year to 150 teachers of social science and philosophy, Xi said philosophy and social science “unequivocally uphold” Marxist principles and the ruling Communist Party must lead and manage the development of philosophy and social sciences.

Intellectuals in the field should be “loyal and resolute supporters of party governance”, he said.

Last year authorities also urged universities to increase ideological guidance for students and to “firmly uphold the correct political direction”.

This is the fifth years Xi has visited CPPCC panels for meetings with the country’s top political advisors on March 4, the second day of the annual CPPCC session.

He heard nine members speak in Saturday’s meeting, on topics ranging from building a stronger team of general practitioners, raising the international influence of Chinese culture, lowering the homework burden of primary and secondary school students and following scientific methods in major projects.