In a move that marks the most recent step in an ideological campaign led by President Xi JinPing to restrict western influence in China, the Chinese education minister has vowed to ban university textbooks which promote “western values”.
“Never let textbooks promoting Western values appear in our classes,” education minister Yuan Guiren stated yesterday during an education forum in Beijing which was attended by officials from Peking University, Tsinghua University and Xiamen University, among other leading Chinese institutions.
The minister urged higher education establishments to maintain “political integrity” and stifle “remarks that slander the leadership of the Communist Party of China” by scrutinising educational materials sourced from western countries.”
Chinese universities are operated by the ruling Communist party, which controls the study and discussion of history and any topic it feels is a potential threat to its power.
Yesterday’s statement comes a month after a number of the country’s schools and universities were forced to ban “kitsch” Christmas celebrations owing to their supposed “western” influence on Chinese traditions.
One university in Xian put up banners which read “Strive to be outstanding, sons and daughters of China! Oppose kitsch western holidays” and “Resist the expansion of western culture”.
China has also taken action to tighten controls on academic criticism since Xi assumed the party leadership in 2012. Among the number of outspoken professors who have been sacked or jailed since this point is law professor Zhang Xuehong, who was removed from his post at East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai last month following his publication of articles that critiqued the government.
One Chinese province recently announced its plans to install CCTV cameras in university classrooms, triggering widespread outcry from lawyers who claimed that the act would curb academic freedom still further.
This is not the first time that such measures have been suggested. Authorities have previously been known to install video equipment in the classrooms of allegedly problematic academics- most notably, Uighur economics professor Ilham Tohti, who was sentenced to life in prison for separatism in September on the basis of evidence gleaned from classroom cameras.
While the number of colleges and universities in China has more than doubled with the growth of the country’s economy, many offspring of the country’s political elite have chosen to study at establishments in Europe and the US. President Xi’s daughter has reportedly been studying at Harvard University since 2010.
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