Studying China’s socialist dogmas must start from an early age, President Xi believes. Thence, first-grade students are forced to learn them by heart.
by Zhou Hua
While visiting a primary school in Chenzhou city in the central province of Hunan on September 16, President Xi Jinping emphasized the need to instill “the red gene” in students and “pass down the revolutionary cause from generation to generation.” Since the day he took the top office in 2013, the president has been forcefully promoting patriotic education in China’s educational institutions, intended to indoctrinate Chinese youth with communist ideology and loyalty to the ruling Communist Party, starting from kindergartens.
On September 1, students in a primary school in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang attended their first patriotic education class of the new school year. A slogan on the classroom’s blackboard read, “Let’s hold high the flag of Young Pioneers, follow the Party, and prepare ourselves to fight for the Communist cause at all times.” Various patriotic slogans, such as “Obey the Party’s commands, serve the people, be bold and ready to fight,” were shown on the electronic display screen next to the blackboard.
The students’ parents received messages from the school that day, demanding them to ensure that their offsprings watch a special TV program called First Class of the Semester at 8 p.m. The show, co-produced by the CCP Central Propaganda Department, the Ministry of Education, and China Central Television, is broadcast nationwide on or around the first day of school. This year’s topic—the government’s “achievements” in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
Parents were also ordered to take photos of their children watching the program and hand in their written accounts on what they had learned from it. Because of the complicated content, parents helped children write down their thoughts and posted them on the school’s group on WeChat, China’s largest social media platform. “Most of them expressed gratitude to the country and pledged to serve it and said that China would only be strong if its youth are strong,” one of the parents recalled, calling such type of education “indoctrination.”
In a primary school in Yantai city in the eastern province of Shandong, the new school year for first-year students started with a tough assignment. They had to memorize the 12 core socialist values—new interpretations of Chinese socialism promulgated at the CCP’s 18th National Congress in 2012. Since young children could not understand them, parents had to break up sentences to help them memorize the dogmas word by word.
Students at a primary school in Shandong’s Jinan city were also told to memorize the core socialist values at home, and their parents were instructed to supervise their progress. Some parents reported that their children wept from frustration.
“The state pays close attention to patriotic education, teaching children to love the country and the Party from a young age,” a student’s parent from Jinan’s Huaiyin district commented.
The core socialist values are widely promoted everywhere in China, including religious venues, and are used to contend “Western universal values.” President Xi declared at a Central United Front Work Department meeting on May 18 in 2015, that “the core socialist values and Chinese culture will help develop various religions in China.” He urged to “support religious communities in interpreting religious thought, doctrines, and teachings in a way that conforms with the needs of the progress of the times. Resolutely guard against the infiltration of Western ideology, and consciously resist the influence of extremist thought.”
The national education training center in Shandong’s Heze city is used for primary and middle school students’ patriotic education. Completed in May this year, the center organizes special courses, lasting from 2 to 40 days, for schoolchildren between the ages of six to sixteen on “loving, respecting, and defending the country.” Some schools in the city had sent their students to attend classes there.
“Cultivation of red successor should start at a young age,” a city government insider said. “It’s difficult to transform youngsters at 17 and 18. They all have their own thoughts then. Children are so naïve, with no thought of their own; that is why they should be taught to love the Party and defend the country. If they are educated this way, they will be able to serve the country when they grow up.”