Chinese universities tighten ideological control of teaching staff
Seven top colleges set up departments to oversee the political thinking of teachers after government inspectors criticise institutions’ ideological ‘weakness’
A group of China’s top universities have set up Communist Party departments to oversee the political thinking of their teaching staff after the colleges were criticised amid the government’s tightening ideological control on campuses.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s powerful disciplinary watchdog, last week published “rectification reports” on eight top-tier universities it inspected this year.
Seven have set up a “teachers’ affairs department” under their Communist Party committees to improve “ideological and political work” among teaching staff.
The inspection teams toured 29 of the best universities across mainland China, including the prestigious Peking University and Tsinghua University in Beijing, for a “political check-up” earlier this year.
Some universities were criticised after the months-long inspections for their weakness in promoting ideology, while party committees were also chastised for weak leadership and failing to toe the party line.
Dalian University of Technology in Liaoning province has pledged to make annual training plans to improve the ideological and political education of teachers, according to its rectification report.
Beijing Normal University said the “virtues” of teachers, which include their ideological and political thinking, were included in their appraisals this year.
All universities and colleges in China are under the control of a party committee, which oversees party affairs on campus and the running of the schools.
Most committees already have two departments supervising undergraduate and graduate students to monitor their ideological and political thinking.
The inclusion of teaching staff for supervision under the party committee is the latest move by the authorities to tighten ideological control on campuses.
Universities were ordered four years ago to steer clear of seven topics while teaching, including universal values, press freedom and civil rights.
Outspoken professors who have openly criticised the communist authorities or its leaders have been punished or silenced.
Deng Xiangchao, a communications professor at Shandong Jianzhu University, was forced to retire in January after criticising Mao Zedong publicly on the eve of the anniversary of the late leader’s birth.
Some more liberal universities have already moved to tighten control of their teaching staff to toe the party line.
Many universities – as well as the seven inspected – have set up teachers’ affairs departments this year, including Shanghai Jiao Tong university and the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing.
Peking University was the first to set up a similar teachers department in 2015.
Twenty-one other universities inspected by the commission have yet to release their “rectification reports”.
Tsinghua University did not mention the party department in its report, but said it had set up a leading group on teachers’ ideological and political work headed by its party secretary.
The party’s ideological control of higher education has intensified since President Xi Jinping took power in late 2012.
Xi vowed at a high-level meeting last year to turn campuses into “strongholds of the party’s leadership” to ensure orthodox Marxism dominated the thinking of academics and students.