China’s Ministry of Education recently ordered 37 of the country’s top universities to offer courses on studying Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping’s political theories this fall semester. All students are required to take it.
The program would be expanded to all Chinese universities within the next five years.
The new Xi Jinping philosophy course follows the Party’s pattern of indoctrinating college students with classes on communist ideology.
In the 1980s, the CCP mandated the study of former leader Mao Zedong’s theories on Marxism. In the 2000s, it implemented a “thought and moral cultivation” course that featured communist teachings.
Some China experts believe the latest instruction is an indication of Xi’s intention to further solidify his power ahead of an important political meeting.
In September, Qiushi, a bimonthly state-run magazine on communist theory, published an article penned by Xi in which he emphasized the importance of having students learn his philosophy— from primary school, middle school, high school, to university.
The magazine then announced a new decision by the education ministry to mandate universities to teach an introductory course on “Xi Jinping’s Thought of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era”—the name of Xi’s political doctrine. Every CCP leader comes up with an ideology that is enshrined in the Party constitution.
Peking University, Tsinghua University, Nankai University, and 34 other top universities that have colleges dedicated to the study of Marxism launched the course in fall 2020.
Nankai University published an article on Sept. 6, in which it introduced the content of the Xi philosophy class, such as explaining the relationship between Xi’s theory and Marxism, Xi’s theory on historical studies, Xi’s targets for China’s development, and so on.
Tsinghua University introduced on its website that the course is 12 weeks long and all materials in the course are based on Xi’s speeches.
Bitter Winter, an online magazine focused on Chinese religious liberty and human rights, reported in June that Chinese high schools and universities had begun requiring their students to study Xi’s speeches.
The report quoted a college student from eastern China’s Shandong Province: “If we can’t pass the test on Xi’s theory, we won’t receive a diploma from college. As a consequence, it will be very hard for us to join the Party, find a good job, or be promoted in future.”
As the CCP will host its Fifth Plenary Session from Oct. 26 to Oct. 29 in Beijing—with an agenda of mapping out China’s next five-year-plan and discussing potential candidates for the next Party leader—Xi is likely seeking to affirm officials’ loyalty toward him, said U.S.-based China affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan.
“I think Xi Jinping wants to solidify his top leader position,” he said.
During the last Party conclave held in 2017, Xi did not name a successor. In March 2018, the CCP officially amended its constitution to remove the two-term limit for the head of state—allowing Xi to rule indefinitely.
Because he does not yet have plans to nominate a successor, Xi wants to maintain his position as Party leader, Tang analyzed.
He also noted that with high unemployment rates among new college grads, Xi wants to make sure they toe the Party line. “I think Xi wants students to learn his philosophy, so they won’t protest if they can’t find a job after graduation,” Tang added.
Xi also made recent moves to consolidate his power.
On Sept. 28, Xi hosted a meeting in Beijing to release the “Work Regulations of the CCP Central Committee,” which according to Party rules, are as critical as the Party’s constitution. The Central Committee is a body made up of the Party’s elite.
State-run media Xinhua reported that the work regulations clearly described: “Xi Jinping is the core of the Central Committee,” and that the Party must follow the work regulations.
“By creating these work regulations, Xi is announcing that he will be the Party leader for as long as the regulations are valid,” Tang commented.