China’s education minister recently announced a ban on university textbooks that promote “western values,” as he believes the books to be a threat that bring foreign ideas into the nation’s schools.
Minister Yuan Guiren announced, “Never let textbooks promoting western values appear in our classes,” adding that “Remarks that slander the leadership of the Communist Party of China” and “smear socialism” should not make any appearance in a college classroom.
“Young teachers and students are key targets of infiltration by enemy forces,” he wrote on Feb. 2 in the elite party journal “Seeking Truth,” explaining that “some countries,” fearful of China’s rise, “have stepped up infiltration in more discreet and diverse ways.”
Universities in the country are run by the Communist party, which holds control over classroom discussions pertaining to history and other topics.
Often, the Party refers to concepts such as multiparty elections and separation of powers as “Western,” although the ideas are popular across the globe.
It was only four years ago that the minister himself stood in opposition to the government control of education in the country, saying publicly that banning Western ideology from classrooms was wrong. “No matter how many foreign resources we import, we won’t be at risk, because we’re on Chinese soil,” he said.
Changing his mind on the issue brings to light the increasing tension between academics and party officials concerning the future of Chinese scholarships, writes Dan Levin for The New York Times.
Control over education in the country has been tight since 2012 when President Xi Jinping took power. Since that time, a number of professors who disagree with the movement have been either fired or placed in jail.
One example is Xia Yeliang, an economics professor at the prestigious Peking University. Xia was fired in 2013 after a 13-year tenure after continuously asking for political change in the country. He was one of the original signers of the reformist petition Charter 08. The author, Liu Xiaobo, is still in prison, despite having won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Meanwhile, the university maintains that Xia was dismissed due to poor teaching. He has since moved to the United States.
Last month, a Chinese province announced they would be installing CCTV cameras into university classrooms, despite arguments from lawyers who say the move will limit academic freedom.
Video equipment has already been placed in classrooms of educators known to be outspoken. The most notable professor to receive this treatment was Uighur economics professor Ilham Tohti, who was recently sentenced to life in prison for separatism.
Ilham was convicted using evidence collected from video footage.
While the number of colleges and universities have doubled in the country in the past 10 years, many children, and especially those of political and business elite, prefer to study in America or Europe.