The Chinese Ministry of Education incorporates ‘Xi Jinping’ thinking into the national curriculum, from primary schools to graduate programs.
Chinese pupils returned to school on Wednesday with new textbooks with ‘Xi Jinping thought’, as the Communist Party aims to expand its personality cult to seven-year-olds and train a new generation of patriots.
The Ministry of Education said on Wednesday it would include Xi’s vaguely defined political ideology in the national curriculum at the start of the new school year, from primary schools to postgraduate programs.
Primary school teachers must ‘plant the seeds of love for the party, the country and socialism in young hearts’, reads a statement from the government on the new curriculum.
The new textbooks are adorned with the president’s poignant quotes and images of his smiling face, with elementary school students serving chapters on the achievements of Chinese civilization and the role of the Communist Party in poverty alleviation and the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lessons are interspersed with quotes from Xi on patriotism and duty, as well as anecdotes from his encounters with ordinary citizens.
“Grandpa Xi Jinping is very busy with work, but no matter how busy he is, he still joins our activities and cares about our growth,” says one textbook.
Xi’s thought, which includes 14 principles, including ‘absolute party leadership’ over the military and ‘improving living standards through development’.
It was enshrined in the constitution during a 2018 legislative session that abolished term restrictions and paved the way for him to rule indefinitely.
The principles are now frequently quoted by officials in very diverse contexts, from the fight against Covid-19 to literature and the arts, and universities have opened institutes for Xi’s thinking.
The attempt to indoctrinate children with his political thinking still brings Xi’s ideology to the youngest audience.
This comes as the party launches a larger campaign to combat what it sees as corrupt influences on youth, from video games to celebrities and foreign educational instruments.
Textbooks for older children deepen more complex topics such as the country’s aviation industry and the path to becoming a ‘modern socialist great power’.
Several parents have expressed private discomfort over the curriculum, but did not want to be questioned by the AFP news agency, for fear of having difficulty speaking to foreign media. But anonymous internet commentators have a subtle setback to the policy.
“Brainwashing starts at an early age,” wrote a user of the Weibo social media platform.
“Can we refuse it?” asks another.
Wang Fei-Ling, a professor of international affairs at Georgia Tech, said the textbooks were an example of the Communist Party’s attempt to ‘bet on a cult of personality with a strong Mao leader’.
“But given what has happened in Chinese society over the past four decades, I think many parents may not like it very much, and many students may find it boring – but few people want or can protest in public,” Wang said. added.
“Most people probably just don’t take it very seriously.”
While China has long given schoolchildren patriotism and political education, the new curriculum ‘is about promoting the cult of Xi just as much as inciting greater nationalism’, Chinese researcher Adam Ni told AFP.