International students usually stay out of their host country’s politics, for reasons ranging from lack of familiarity to seeing it as not their problem.
But one country is taking steps to bring their brand of politics to these students instead – China.
"None of these regulations should shock anyone who follows how China governs its own… https://t.co/div5qaEU2T
— Natalie Hui (@natalie_hui2047) June 8, 2017
The Asian powerhouse announced on Monday foreign students will now have to take compulsory courses about China’s laws, institutions as well as traditional Chinese culture and customs, as mandated by the country’s regulations, Quartz reports.
Article 25 states: “Institutes of higher education must demonstrate to foreign students, with Chinese law and regulations, school regulation, national spirit and school spirit, and traditional Chinese culture and custom and other elements in its education content.”
Drawn up by the ministries of education, foreign affairs and public security, the new regulations will also require foreign students in philosophy and politics courses to take compulsory classes on political theories, though it did not say which systems will be taught in the universities and institutions.
To add to that, universities are now required to ban their foreign cohort from attending military training or political activities “under normal circumstances”, although the details for that have not been elaborated in the regulations.
The same goes for on-campus religious activities, such as preaching or gatherings, but schools are mandated to respect the customs and religious beliefs of international students.
Business Insider wrote the new regulations are aimed at regulating schools’ admission as well as “the cultivation and management” and “convenience” of international students studying in schools in China.
In China, foreign student figures see year-to-year increases – last year, they numbered more than 440,000 and came from 205 countries and regions.
As their numbers rise, so does the ruling Communist Party’s grip on syllabus in Chinese higher education institutions, a constraint that has intensified under current president Xi Jinping.
The head of state said: “Higher education … must adhere to correct political orientation,” in a high-profile speech to top party leaders and university chiefs last December, Guardian reports.
Now under the new rules, foreign students must have “instructors” as well, a practice similar to the “political instructors” employed for Chinese students who oversee their political and ideological education, though Business Insider notes that the new rules on instructors for foreign students did not mention a political aspect to it.
Chinese students studying overseas are not exempt from the state’s attempts to drive their political propaganda either, reports have shown. Quartz notes student organisations have been reported to be used as a government proxy to push the Communist Party’s political agenda to its citizens studying overseas.
Despite this, these students generally experience greater freedoms overseas than their fellow citizens back home, a situation infamously described as the “fresh air of free speech” by Yang Shuping, a University of Maryland student from Kunming, China, which sparked a backlash in her home country.