Since the outbreak of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, the world has been skeptical of China’s confirmed cases and deaths figures. In fact, this is not the first time that the totalitarian regime is facing the world’s scrutiny for spreading disinformation on matters related to health emergencies: in 2003 it was the SARS coverup.
But how many are aware of the fact that even the school textbooks in China contain distorted information on history, both theirs and the world’s? Here are five of the biggest lies that Chinese students are taught in school.
Lie #1: Sino-Japanese War
For decades, the Chinese communist regime has been claiming that it led China to victory and defeated Japan during the Sino-Japanese War. However, this is far from the truth, and the CCP claiming the credit definitely does not sit well with the Kuomintang troops—the soldiers who fought in the war.
“The Chinese Communist Party didn’t defeat Japan,” said veteran Maj. Tao Shin-jun to Los Angeles Times in 2015. “During those eight years, it was us Nationalists who were fighting—the communists were not doing battle with the Japanese. They were trying to get Nationalist soldiers to defect to their side.”
According to The Epoch Times editorial series “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party,” historical evidence has shown that the CCP “intentionally avoided battles in the Sino-Japanese War.” The series also mentioned that in 1972, Mao Zedong told Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka that the “CCP would not have gained power in China” if the war didn’t happen.
Notwithstanding the historical evidence and archives, the authoritarian regime told Chinese educators in 2017 to rewrite textbooks on the country’s war with Japan. The New York Times reported that instead of the “Eight-Year War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression,” which lasted from 1937 to 1945, the educators were asked to change it to “Fourteen-Year War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression” to include 1931 to 1936 when the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Manchuria.
The Chinese Ministry of Education said the reason for rewriting of the textbooks was to emphasize the communist party’s “core role” in the war and also to promote “patriotic education,” according to The New York Times. However, Kerry Brown, a professor of Chinese politics at King’s College London, thinks the distorting of history showed the communist party’s insecurity.
“It demonstrates this continuing keenness by the party now to seek sources of legitimacy wherever it can and reveals more insecurity than real strength,” he told The New York Times.
Lie #2: The Great Famine
The three-year Great Famine, which lasted from 1959 to 1961, has been labeled by the Chinese regime as “three years of natural disaster,” with the regime blaming it on the weather.
Yang Jisheng, a veteran Chinese journalist and the author of “Tombstone,” a book that details the Great Famine, had looked through different sources and archives of meteorological data from 1958 to 1961 and found no records of natural disasters such as flood or drought.
In fact, the Great Famine was actually a major economic disaster caused by the Great Leap Forward, a campaign that required everyone in the country to get involved in steel-making and forced farmers to leave their crops. It resulted in the death of 40 million lives according to the article “Great Famine” in the book “Historical Records of the People’s Republic of China” (pdf) published in February 1994 by the Red Flag Publishing House, stated Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party (pdf).
However, Helen Raleigh, an immigrant from China and a senior contributor to The Federalist, wrote in an article dated in 2016 that her high school history book didn’t mention the number of people who died. Instead, the famine was summarized in “only a few sentences.”
Raleigh added that there were no official books that detailed what happened. But she learned through her parents that she had an uncle who died as a baby because of starvation. She said that her grandmother was “too hungry to produce any milk, and there was no baby formula available.”
In an earlier article by The Epoch Times, Mr. Jiang, from Xie County, Shanxi Province, recalled an even more horrifying scene—cannibalism. “People ate anything,” he said. “There were deaths in every family. Dead bodies were everywhere. Finally, people started eating humans, including living ones and relatives.”
Lie #3: Tiananmen Square Massacre
The world can’t forget the iconic image of the “Tank Man” standing in front of a line of tanks at Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989, as well as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which happened a day earlier on June 4, 1989. It was the day when many innocent citizens, including students, were gunned down and crushed by tanks.
The incident first started in April 1989 when thousands of pro-democracy students rallied on the streets of Beijing calling for political and economic reforms and for an end to government corruption. However, Chinese soldiers and military vehicles charged into Tiananmen Square overnight on June 3–4 and killed many.
According to declassified information leaked by an anonymous high-level source in the Chinese State Council, some 10,454 people were killed by Chinese soldiers during the massacre. Despite the fact that the news was reported widely all around the world, not many Chinese students know of this fateful day.
Eric Fish, the author of “China’s Millennials: The Want Generation,” wrote on TIME that he met a young Chinese woman majoring in journalism at Columbia University who didn’t know about the massacre until a teacher played the video footage. The woman even got upset and thought it was propaganda from America. It was only after the woman did her own research on the internet that she realized what had happened, Fish said.
In fact, the reason that some students are left in the dark about this important historical incident is due to the Chinese regime’s propaganda and censorship. The regime claimed that no students had died and that some students had attacked the troops, killing some; however, the CCP later revised its position. According to BBC, the CCP said that the “counter-revolutionary riots” that happened on June 4 had resulted in the death of 200 civilians and some security personnel.
As for those who knew a thing or two about the incident, some have dismissed it as an unrelated event. Cui, an auditor, told Foreign Policy, that the anniversary of June 4 has nothing to do with him. Moreover, “I don’t know any young people around me who care about the June 4 anniversary either,” he said.
Lie #4. No Believing of Gods
The CCP, known for promoting atheism, claims that religion is a “spiritual opium” that can intoxicate people. Since the time it came into power in China, the CCP ordered a crackdown on religions and religious groups. Up to today, religious persecution continues in communist China, and party members, including retired officials, had been told repeatedly that they should not believe in religions.
According to a report by BBC, the Chinese state-run media Xinhua quoted an official, saying: “There are clear rules that retired cadres and party members cannot believe in religion, cannot take part in religious activities, and must resolutely fight against cults.”
School teachers in China are usually required to ask their young students to report family members who take part in religious activities, according to a March 2019 report by Bitter Winter, a magazine on religious liberty and human rights in China. The magazine wrote that some police officers went to an elementary school in Beijing to ask the grade six students if their family members are religious believers and even tried to bribe them.
In Shangqiu City, Henan Province, some secondary school students were told to sign their names on a banner, pledging to stay away from gods. They were also threatened with expulsion if they were found to be religious.
Such policies have created stress in some families. A Chinese Christian woman told Bitter Winter that her son had been indoctrinated by his teacher into believing that his mother would abandon him and might even burn herself. “Before starting school, I told my child about God’s creation, and he believed it,” the woman said. “But after being taught at school, my child is like a different person. In atheistic China, these pure and innocent children have been taught to hate God.”
Another elementary school student in Hebei Province tried persuading his Christian father to not believe in God. “It leads to a dead end. If you attend gatherings, you will be arrested,” the boy told his father, the magazine reported.
Lie #5. Tiananmen Self-Immolation Hoax
On Jan. 23, 2001, a day before the Chinese Lunar New Year, the Chinese state media reported that some Falun Gong practitioners, including a 12-year-old girl, had self-immolated in Tiananmen Square. This incident was later added to the Chinese elementary school textbooks to incite young students to hate Falun Gong.
Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, is a mind-body practice that consists of five sets of exercises and the universal principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. Merely within five years after its introduction in 1992, as many as 70 million people were practicing Falun Gong. Fearing the spiritual practice’s growing popularity and teachings of moral improvement, the CCP launched a brutal crackdown on the practice in July 1999; the persecution has led to many practitioners being arrested, detained, and tortured.
When the persecution first started, many Chinese were sympathetic towards adherents of Falun Gong. However, suddenly, masses became enraged with the practice after the propaganda of self-immolation was widely broadcast in China via the state media.
A week later after the news was reported, evidence that the self-immolation was staged started surfacing—the number of self-immolators increased from the original five people to seven when the video of the incident was broadcast on CCTV. Moreover, The Washington Post reported on Feb. 4, 2001, that the neighbors of two of the alleged self-immolators—Liu Chunling, 36, and her 12-year-old daughter, Liu Siying—had never seen the mother or daughter practicing Falun Gong.
The neighbor told the reporter about an incident when Liu hit her 78-year-old adoptive mother. “There was something wrong with [Liu Chunling],” the neighbor said. “She hit her mother, and her mother was crying and yelling. She hit her daughter, too.” Her behavior contradicts what Falun Gong teaches its adherents, namely, the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. The Washington Post report also mentioned that only the Chinese state media were allowed to interview survivors and interact with their relatives.
There was further evidence that showed that the incident was staged. Foreign reporters who were familiar with Tiananmen Square said that the police usually would not be carrying fire extinguishers. However, footage of the incident showed that the police were able to put out the fire quickly with fire-fighting equipment. The incident was later analyzed and made into a documentary called “False Fire,” which won an honorary award at the 51st Columbia International Film Festival for exposure of the tragic event in November 2003.
However, despite all the pieces of evidence, many people in China remained unaware of the facts due to the Great Firewall of China.