The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) introduced a draft of its new patriotic education law for first reading to its rubber-stamp legislature, the National People's Congress, last month. When passed, the law with 37 clauses will be applicable across various institutions and the Chinese diaspora.
Experts believe the law is an attempt by the CCP to reinforce its ideology of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and it also highlights the Party's increasing fears of a civilian upheaval, which it aims to curtail through this law.
"The People’s Republic of China’s patriotic education law is the most recent iteration of China’s long-standing policy of assimilation and 're-education' of its population within its ambit of behavior and ideology 'of socialism with Chinese characteristics,'" Tenzin Lhadon, a research fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute, told The Epoch Times in an email.
The draft has highlighted that the law specifically focuses on youth, reported Xinhua. It said, "While stipulating that all citizens should undertake patriotic education, the draft highlights the education of children and young people."
Experts said this highlights the fears of the CCP and its attempts to shape the future public discourse.
"Such policies and laws are enacted to bolster and solidify support for the Party, weed out any form of protest, and further centralize control in Beijing," wrote Ms. Lhadon.
Ms. Huang and Ms. Zou said that young Chinese are patriotic and outspoken about their love for their nation. However, just like in those years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, many of these young patriots are now suspected of threatening the CCP's legitimacy because they have been at the forefront of protests and dissent like those of last year’s zero-COVID protests.
"Even after the overturning of COVID zero, their dissatisfaction with the government continues to be fueled by the dismal economic downturn and the worsening youth unemployment crisis," said the China Project analysts.
Consequently, the young Chinese are seeking alternative ways of living.
Threatened by the growing public discontent, the CCP is trying the "tried-and-true tactic of patriotic education" to control the situation and to salvage the Party's popularity.
Law's Outreach AbroadNicole Tsai, a spokeswoman for the New Federal State of China, a New York-based pro-democracy group, told The Epoch Times in an email that the new patriotic education law is Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s countermeasure against the unprecedented challenges faced by the CCP not only at home but also abroad.
Ms. Huang and Ms. Zou said that while the new law codifies existing practices from previous patriotic campaigns, it also expands its scope to include Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, overseas Chinese, and the internet.
Mr. Lee said the Chinese law can “facilitate the building of a mainstream value that sees loving China and Hong Kong as its core.”
Ms. Lhadon said that the inclusion of Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, overseas Chinese, and the internet indicates that the new law is part of Mr. Xi’s larger project under the ethnic unity law enforced upon regions like Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia. The ethnic unity law, according to her, aims to dilute ethnic differences and eliminate threats, thus enforcing assimilation of the so-called minority cultures.
Mr. Lee said unlike Hong Kong and Macau, it’s not clear how the law will play out in Taiwan, where the CCP doesn’t exert similar political control and the anti-China sentiment is high.
The new patriotic education law also reinforces the idea of Mr. Xi's policies and narratives of “one China” and should be seen as a desperate measure to instill this idea, said Ms. Lhadon.
“However, the questions of instability and lack of legitimacy in the regions of Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc., and the forceful occupation of these regions by the Communist Party of China, as well as significant resistance to this narrative of ‘one China’ adds to Xi Jinping’s insecurity and, therefore, the new law,” she said.
Ms. Tsai pointed out that a recent poll by the Pew Research Center Survey, which surveyed people across 24 countries, showed that public sentiment toward China is negative, and the CCP leaders increasingly want to change this perception.
"About two-thirds of adults hold unfavorable views of China. The CCP is considered the biggest existential threat to U.S. national security. The new patriotic education law is an indoctrination program attempting to restore the lost confidence and trust in the regime, " wrote Ms. Tsai.
Geopolitical CalculusExperts said the United States has recently taken several steps against the CCP’s abuses. This has pushed Beijing toward crisis management, and the new patriotic law is a step toward it.
“The conspicuous surge in international support, particularly orchestrated by the United States, for the Tibet cause has reverberated within China's corridors of power,” Kalyani Yeola, a research scholar at India’s Birla Institute of Technology and Science, told The Epoch Times in an email.
Ms. Lhadon highlighted a few of these steps taken this year by the United States against CCP policies, such as the Aug. 22 announcement by the U.S. State Department to impose visa restrictions on Chinese officials involved with the forced assimilation of millions of Tibetan children in government-run boarding schools, popularly touted by Tibetan activists as the "colonial boarding schools."
"Globally, China’s belligerence faces a much stronger response from countries collaborating under U.S.-led cooperation, regional groupings, and a renewed allied formation aimed at countering China’s increasing aggression," said Ms. Lhadon.
According to Ms. Yeola, this global pushback, particularly by the United States, has seemingly evoked a distinct sense of vulnerability and insecurity in the CCP, compelling it to amend its approach to bolster domestic loyalty. Through this, according to her, the regime is also trying to dampen any burgeoning proclivity toward alternative ideologies.
The researcher said the law could also impact the soft power policies of the CCP’s adversaries like the United States and can push the latter toward proactive retaliatory measures to counterbalance any potential homogenizing effects of China's patriotic education efforts.
“They could consider strengthening their own cultural and educational engagements within overseas Chinese communities to foster a more diverse and nuanced understanding of their respective cultures,” said Ms. Yeola.
Ms. Tsai said she expects the new patriotic education law to accelerate the Chinese exodus from the mainland to the West.