As school opens for the new academic year this September, every 6-year-old student will receive a copy of a newly published textbook meant to endear them to the Chinese Communist Party’s new administration.
The 56-page booklet titled “Giant Step to a New Historical Height: A Student’s Guide to the Spirit of the 18th National Party Congress” has attracted a lot of discussion online, most of it negative. Chinese people have questioned the political motives behind its sweeping introduction to China’s schools and suggested that the idea is inappropriate and retrograde.
The Student’s Guide, as described on its official website, aims to introduce to young students the “spirit of the 18th Party Congress,” the political conclave in which the newest and current generation of communist leaders, including General Secretary Xi Jinping, were installed.
It goes across a variety of subjects, including the structure and stated aims of the Congress, and glorifies such achievements as economic development, Internet control, and “the legend of the aircraft carrier,” which the Chinese military put to sea recently. Party cadres and “model workers” are interviewed.
This content is divided into four points, all of which are expressed in language typical of communist panegyric. The last point, called “Children Loyal to the Party Forever,” includes information on “prospective military strategies outlined during the Congress.”
Many Chinese are wary of what they see as a heavy-handed means of indoctrinating the young.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s “big, fake, and empty” is plainly reflected in China’s ‘Rules of Elementary Students,’ blogger Yeduzidu wrote this May on Tianya, a popular Chinese discussion forum:
“Rule No. 1 is love the motherland, love the people, love the Chinese Communist Party. This is obviously political preaching. Why does the political party force people to sing praises to it? Isn’t it inappropriate to force such young children to declare this political view?”
A user under the name HarrisD commented on Weibo: “Politics have no place in the classroom. This is blatant brainwashing, aiming to completely destroy any possibility of innovation and creativity in the new generation.”
The new textbooks seem to be part of broader efforts to boost the presence of the Communist Party under Xi Jinping. Recent months have seen increased suppression of online “rumors.” Officials at all levels have been targeted for disciplining by the extralegal shuanggui system, and lately, the Maoist-style method of forcing officials to engage in public self-criticism has been revived.
A Weibo user compared it to what was taught in the Maoist era. “In 1975, when I was in elementary school, I was forced to read Mao’s ‘Selected Works’ and write critical essays against the pardoning of ‘rightists.’”
A journalist from Orient Today remarked: “Not the Soviet route anymore, but rather the North Korean route? Thumbs down.”
Others expressed sarcasm at the decision to give the text to barely literate 6-year-olds.
“It is certainly a new historical height,” one commented, imitating the name of the text.
With translation by Lu Chen and Frank Fang.