The Chinese government has significantly increased the quantity of communist propaganda in schools under president Xi Jinping, modifying curricula to include more content promoting communism and concerning some parents who feel their children would be better served by a greater emphasis on science and math, according to the New York Times.
In a report published Sunday, the newspaper highlights the use of “Red Army” elementary schools to ensure children consume communist propaganda at an early age and learn to work hard in schools for rewards that include wearing red-scarved military school uniforms.
“Textbooks are getting a larger dose of Communist Party lore, including glorified tales about the party’s fights against foreign invaders like Japan,” the report notes. “Schools are adding courses on traditional medicine and Confucian thought to highlight China’s achievements as a civilization.”
In the school the report visits—the Workers and Peasants Red Army Elementary School—teachers place emphasis on teaching their young pupils to appreciate the alleged sacrifices Communist Party officials and soldiers have made for them to have the privilege of being educated in a communist school. They also emphasize loyalty to “socialism with Chinese characteristics” over Western traditional Marxist thought.
Reforms to education that enforce enthusiasm for the Communist Party are especially important to the stability of Xi’s repressive regime in anticipation of the Communist Party Congress, set to begin on October 18, in which the Party elects or re-elects its top leaders and regional deputies. The New York Times argues that reforms meant to ensure interest in communist are especially necessary, however, in light of growing disenchantment within China regarding Marxist ideals.
Parents, the newspaper states, and some teachers have expressed “opposition, and even mockery” to the onslaught of communist propaganda children face in their schools. “Many see political indoctrination as an anachronism in an era when China’s more than 181 million schoolchildren need a modern education in math, science and liberal arts to get ahead,” the article argues.
Others oppose classes meant to stoke Chinese nationalism by promoting subjects like traditional Chinese medicine over modern science, which could limit a child’s exposure to the skills necessary for a scientific, medical, or mathematical job in the future. The Times notes that this frustration is not new—a 2010 survey found a negative correlation between the amount of communist indoctrination individuals endured in schools and their loyalty to the ideology.
Highlighting the extent to which the Xi government has pushed for more indoctrination in schools, the Global Times, a state-run newspaper, published a story heralding the loyalty of young communists to the cause in August, in anticipation of the party congress. The story focused on a Beijing primary school’s project forcing children to write letters to “Grandpa Xi” himself about “socialist core values.”
“Activities have been held in schools throughout the country around Children’s Day, themed ‘Celebrating the 19th Party Congress—I want to say my piece to Grandpa Xi,'” the article noted. “Besides sending letters to the country’s leader, there were also singing competitions, musical contests and visits to revolutionary sites, which aimed to make children feel more patriotic and to strengthen their attachment to the Party.”
“While these kids, some of whom are barely toilet trained, may seem remote from the cause of communism, but as one of the country’s most populous organizations, China’s 130 million young pioneers are the training ground for the Communist Youth League, which is in turn the source of many who go on to join the Party,” the Global Times argued.
This indoctrination is particularly important outside of Beijing, in breakaway regions like Hong Kong. Beijing has attempted to impose itself on capitalist Hong Kong through its “One Country, Two Systems” philosophy, which in theory allows local government to stage elections and control responses to local issues. This week, however, city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor ruled that all Hong Kong secondary schools would have to modify their curricula to include “Chinese history” as a mandatory class, to reinforce “a sense of national identity.”
Throughout the rest of Japan, Xi decreed the use of elementary and high school textbooks that emphasize conflict with Japan, decree Chinese sovereignty over disputed territories in the South China Sea, and spend significant time promoting the Chinese Communist Party.
In universities, professors received an order early this year to make Marxism more “fashionable” for university students, with experts lamenting in state media that “attention levels at thought and political theory classes are not high. People are there in body but not in spirit.” An increased emphasis on communist propaganda accompanied the rollout of a variety of new hip-hop songs meant to promote Marxist thought and moves to limit students’ exposure to Western individualist philosophies.