Previously we noted the crackdown on religious freedom in China as new laws proposed by the atheist state will come into full effect in February. These laws will require all religious institutions to register with the ruling Communist Party (CP). More recent news is that the CP has also banned all foreign texts from schools and approved of its libraries burning “inappropriate” publications (1). The state is also attempting to rewrite the Qur’an and the Bible to reflect socialist values, and religious minorities continue to face persecution.
The banning of foreign materials from classrooms has the purpose of keeping students focused on the “Chinese” way, which is conveniently defined and conceptualized by the ruling CP. This will include having all the primary and secondary teaching materials reflecting the will of the party and the country, which is rather just a means for the CP to tighten its grip over the education system and the minds of its youth. Hong Kong journalist Eric Cheung, writing for CNN, states that there is “a ban on foreign teaching materials like textbooks and classic novels in all public primary and secondary schools — a move experts say is an attempt to tighten ideological control of students across the country” (2). Evidently the students are to “bear the great responsibility of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”, which is also conveniently the CP’s ideal version of the nation. A spokesman for China’s National Textbook Committee Office stated that their “next step is to systematize the education of Chinese philosophy, and accelerate the construction of teaching materials for the research on Marxist theories” (3). One wonders how this will affect ancient Chinese philosophies such as Confucianism and Daoism.
The state’s education ministry will review all materials for “problems of political direction or value orientation” and anything meeting such criteria will not be approved. Materials covering topics with strong ideological principles, such as ethnicity, national sovereignty, history, literature, and religion, will be written and distributed directly to schools by Chinese publishers. This means that the state can say what it wishes about these ideologies, which suggests that the opportunity to caricaturize, standardize, revise, edit, and/or discard disagreeable materials is unlimited.
There are a few exceptions to this imposition, but these will only apply to senior high schools that offer joint classes and exchange programs with foreign education institutions. These classes will be allowed to selectively use foreign content but only on the basis that “domestic teaching materials really cannot satisfy educational needs.” Of course, what makes the cut of not satisfying “educational needs” will be determined by the CP’s ideology and therefore be far from neutral.
The rationale behind indoctrinating the youth is not difficult to determine. The CP is aware that if it can indoctrinate its young population into the same cookie-cutter mentality their minds will be easily molded in favour of its own socialist, communist ideology. This will ensure that the next generation and future generations are firmly entrenched within the state’s ideology, further ensuring that power is kept in the hands of a select few.
Eva Fu, writing for the Epoch Times, adds further restrictions on education and freedom of thought (4):
- Chinese nationals are obligated to install apps meant for ideological instruction and to immerse themselves in the latest political doctrines.
- Fudan University in Shanghai, one of China’s top academic institutions, dropped the phrase “freedom of thought” in its charter.
- A state-run library in western China burnt books, a move applying a new government policy. The education ministry had asked libraries in all primary and secondary schools to “clean up” any books that are “illegal” or “inappropriate.” 65 “illegal publications” were publicly burned in front of the entrance of a library, including religious books and “tendentious” magazines or media, according to a local government post praising the act.
- Back in January 2015, then education minister Yuan Guiren said that they “absolutely cannot allow teaching materials that spread Western values or ideologies into Chinese classrooms.”
1. Chinese Government. 2020. 教育部关于印发《中小学教材管理办法》《职业院校教材管理办法》和《普通高等学校教材管理办法》的通知. Available.
2. Cheung, Eric. 2020. China bans foreign teaching materials in public schools. Available.
3. Paperpeople.com. 2020. 全国教材建设规划和四个教材管理办法印发. Available.
4. Fu, Eva. 2020. Beijing Bans ‘Foreign Teaching Materials’ From Schools. Available.