China’s 1.4 Billion People Threatened by Tighter Thought Control and the Ghosts of the Cultural Revolution: Arm Students with Xi Jinping Idealism
article by Hiromi Kamoshita Fuji TV Deputy Head of the International Materials Department of the Newspaper Bureau and Deputy Head of the Interpretation Committee
The rapid tightening of controls from the economic sector to education is making Chinese society shiver with fear.
In September, classes on President Xi Jinping’s guiding ideology were made compulsory in Chinese schools, while the operation and establishment of for-profit tutoring schools were restricted. In addition, there has been a series of unusual moves to tighten regulations, such as limiting the provision of online games to minors to one hour on weekend nights. We looked into the intentions behind the tightening of restrictions to find out what President Xi Jinping is trying to do to spur thought control.
“Arming Students’ Brains with Xi Jinping Thought
As of September 1, the new school year, all educational programs in China will include the study of Xi Jinping’s leadership ideology. This “ideology” was incorporated into the Party’s supreme regulations, the Party Statute, along with Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory, at the 2017 Party Congress. Following in the footsteps of Mao Zedong, the founding father of the country, and Deng Xiaoping, the founder of reform and opening up, President Xi’s goal is to make China a “strong nation.
The teaching materials used in the class, “Xi Jinping’s Student Reader on Socialist Thought with Distinction in China in the New Era,” are available in four versions for lower elementary school, upper elementary school, middle school, and high school. In the teaching materials for lower elementary school, President Xi appears as “Grandpa Xi.
Xi Jinping’s New Era of Socialist Thought with Chinese Characteristics Student Reader
The book is designed to teach and admonish children about patriotism and socialist construction, and includes many photos of Xi interacting with children.
In the teaching materials for elementary schools, there are many photos of President Xi Jinping interacting with the children.
On the other hand, the high school textbook mentions the reunification of Taiwan and states that China will not abandon the use of force against outside forces and some Taiwanese independence.
In China, there is a branch of the Communist Party in every workplace, and study sessions on Xi’s ideology have been held for Communist Party members, but this has been extended to elementary schools. It is believed that the aim is to increase Mr. Xi’s centripetal force by thoroughly providing ideological education from an early age and “arming students’ brains with Mr. Xi’s ideology.
While strengthening ideological education, there have been moves to reduce the number of foreign language classes and ban the use of foreign teaching materials. In Shanghai, the final English exam for 3rd to 5th graders was abolished in September, and in Beijing, the Board of Education issued a notice banning the use of foreign teaching materials in compulsory education schools.
In Beijing, the city’s education commission has issued a notice banning the use of foreign educational materials in compulsory education schools, apparently in an attempt to prevent the influx of foreign values through educational materials.
Cram schools are the “enemy” and too much homework is a “no”.
To begin with, China is a more thoroughly educated society than Japan.
In June 2021, 10.78 million people, 70,000 more than the previous year, took the Chinese university entrance exam. In addition to strict measures against the new coronavirus, as in previous years, traffic around the venue was regulated so that students could concentrate on the exam, and the entire society supported the exam by providing free bus fare for students.
The exam wars are getting more and more heated every year, and children are suffering from the pressure, while parents are burdened with the cost of education.
In large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, it is estimated that tens of millions of Japanese yen are needed to complete higher education, including cram schools and lessons, and this has been pointed out as one of the reasons for the declining birth rate.
In late July, the Chinese Communist Party announced two measures related to education in the name of reducing the burden on parents. One of the measures is an order to make compulsory-education cram schools “non-profit organizations. The sudden announcement of a de facto “ban” on cram schools has thrown the education industry into chaos.
There were many cram schools in the vicinity of the Peking University Junior High School, a prestigious school in Beijing, but they were all forced to close down at once in response to the government’s order. When we visited the site, the entrance was locked and a notice announced by the government to reduce the burden of cramming on students with compulsory education was posted. There were classrooms with desks and chairs left in a messy state. Because it was forbidden to receive monthly fees, i.e., to make a profit, the cram schools were closed one after another.
In response to the government’s instructions, the cram schools closed all together.
Another measure put forth by the government was to limit the amount of homework in elementary and junior high schools.
The amount of homework in China was so large that it was said to be one of the longest in the world, with elementary and junior high school students spending 2.8 hours a day on homework. The burden on parents to attend to homework is also very heavy, and in addition to the soaring cost of education, reducing the amount of homework has become a serious problem for parents.
At the home of a boy I interviewed in March, who was in the first grade (at the time) at a local public elementary school, homework was assigned every day in Japanese and arithmetic as well as English from the first grade. When the child completed his homework, his parents would correct him for any mistakes. In addition, for homework that involves practical skills such as reading, recitation, and exercise, parents have to take “video evidence” and report it to the school via an app.
Even homework assignments for younger children are said to be too difficult for parents to keep up with, and working families have been screaming that it is like having a second job waiting for them when they get home.
The new notice states that
1) Parents are prohibited from helping their children with homework, and
(2) No written homework for first and second graders, and an average of no more than 60 minutes for homework for third through sixth graders, and no more than 90 minutes for middle school students.
3) Children should be allowed to go to bed at a certain time.
“Criticism: “Games are mental opium
Following the education industry, the gaming industry was also shocked.
On August 30, the State Administration of Press and Publication, which is in charge of all media in China, issued a notice to regulate the hours of online games in order to “properly prevent minors from becoming addicted to online games. Online game companies are required to register users with their real names, and only provide services to users under the age of 18 for one hour between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
“The spiritual opium that is online gaming has grown into an industry worth hundreds of billions of yuan.
In early August, the state-run Xinhua media denounced online games as “spiritual opium” and said, “The profit-mongering tutoring schools are the enemy. Don’t allow the collusion between the capitalists and the greedy capitalists in the system.
The term “runaway capitalists” was used at the time of the Cultural Revolution (a political struggle to mobilize the masses under Mao Zedong) to refer to those within the Chinese Communist Party who pretended to support socialism while trying to restore capitalism.
In response to the tightening of regulations, even the state-run media began to criticize the cramming and gaming industries in radical terms, as they did during the Cultural Revolution.
“Slamming the “Rich” Began with the “Common Wealth
There are other phenomena reminiscent of the Maoist era at …….
On August 17, President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech at the Central Finance and Economic Commission, a key party meeting, in which he launched the slogan of “common wealth” as an effort to realize the happiness of the people. The goal of “common wealth,” which aims to reduce economic disparity and enrich society as a whole, has been a goal of the country since its founding, and was envisioned by Deng Xiaoping as the future of reform and opening up. Why has President Xi now “revived” the concept of “common wealth”?
President Xi Jinping launches the “common wealth” slogan.
At the meeting, Xi Jinping mentioned three ways to distribute wealth in order to realize “common wealth.
(1) Distribution of wealth through economic activities
(2) Distribution through tax collection, etc.
(3) Crackdown on illegal income and donations by individuals and organizations.
In response to this, the IT giant Tencent moved quickly. Just 26 hours after President Xi’s remarks, Tencent announced that it would contribute 50 billion yuan, or about 850 billion yen, as a “joint wealth project” for rural development and medical and educational support projects for low-income people.
Other large companies are also following suit, including online shopping giant Pinduoduo with 10 billion yuan (about 170 billion yen) to support farmers, the founder of major smartphone maker Xiaomi with 17.2 billion yuan (about 290 billion yen), and Alibaba Group with 100 billion yuan (about 1.65 trillion yen) by 2025. In recent years, the Xi Jinping administration has been making efforts to increase the amount of money spent in China.
In recent years, the Xi Jinping administration has been tightening regulations to target China’s leading IT giants such as Alibaba, Dropbox, and Tencent, exposing them one after another for violating antitrust laws. Therefore, it is thought that the companies want to avoid difficulties by voluntarily offering donations to avoid being noticed by the authorities.
In the case of joint wealth, the wealthy are on the warpath, as “illicit income” and “unreasonable income” are the targets of the crackdown, and the wealthy’s wealth could be a target.
There are concerns that this is a case of “killing the rich to save the poor,” and there were times when the Chinese authorities dismissed this as “just a donation” at a press conference.
While China has been experiencing rapid economic growth, economic disparity is widening.
In 2020, Premier Li Keqiang revealed that about 600 million people in China still live on a monthly income of 1,000 yuan, or about 17,000 Japanese yen. The elimination of inequality will surely be welcomed by young people and ordinary people who are dissatisfied with the current situation.
Premier Li Keqiang
Since his inauguration, Mr. Xi has exposed corruption among party officials one after another, winning wide public support by “swatting away tigers and flies.” Mr. Xi, who aims to seek a third term at the party congress in the fall of 2022, is believed to be hoping to win public support through “joint wealth” as well as “anti-corruption,” and to use this as a backdrop to seize control of the leadership.
However, regulating the activities of private companies, which have supported the development of the Chinese economy, entails great risks. The stock prices of companies that were subject to the restrictions, such as tutoring schools, plummeted, exposing the so-called China risk.
Xi Jinping’s administration is tightening its control over both business and the home, and the Sixth Plenary Session, the party’s key meeting to be held in November, is expected to be an important forum for making adjustments in preparation for the next party congress, which will decide on leadership appointments and other matters. How far will the concentration of power in the hands of President Xi go, and where will China, with its growing veneration of the individual, head? We need to watch the future developments carefully.