China teaches pa­tri­o­tism in schools

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD -


Such sen­ti­ments wide­spread in China.

Now, as the Com­mu­nist Party strug­gles to re­spond to months of protests in Hong Kong against China’s creep­ing con­trol, it has de­cided that the city’s young peo­ple need some of this fer­vor. Af­ter en­coun­ter­ing stiff re­sis­tance to a pre­vi­ous at­tempt to in­tro­duce pa­tri­otic ed­u­ca­tion in Hong Kong schools, it plans to try again.

“We will strengthen na­tional ed­u­ca­tion for Hong Kong and Ma­cao peo­ple, es­pe­cially civil ser­vants and youth … to boost their na­tional con­scious­ness and pa­tri­otic spirit,” Shen Chun­yao, a top party of­fi­cial, said af­ter a con­clave last month, as the protests in Hong Kong raged.

That re­solve is only likely to strengthen af­ter vot­ers in Hong Kong de­liv­ered a re­buke to Bei­jing at lo­cal elec­tions last month, when pro-democ­racy can­di­dates are cap­tured more than 80 per­cent of seats.

Since the foun­da­tion of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic in 1949, China has pro­moted its par­tic­u­lar fla­vor of Com­mu­nist ide­ol­ogy through pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions.

The en­deavor took on a new di­men­sion af­ter the Tianan­men Square up­ris­ing in 1989, when mil­lions of Chi­nese took to the streets to call for greater free­doms, and the col­lapse of the Soviet Union. China’s lead­ers be­gan pro­mot­ing pa­tri­otic ed­u­ca­tion to in­still na­tional pride and loy­alty to the party in young gen­er­a­tions.

These ef­forts have ac­cel­er­ated in the seven years since Xi took con­trol of the party. He has tur­bocharged his­tor­i­cal in­ter­pre­ta­tions that por­tray China as the vic­tim of cruel West­ern and Ja­panese en­e­mies. Through­out the trade war with the United States, au­thor­i­ties have char­ac­ter­ized the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion as hell­bent on stop­ping the Chi­nese re­ju­ve­na­tion en­vi­sioned in Xi’s “Chi­nese dream.”

“Thought work” be­gins in kinder­garten, when 5year-olds play games such as “My Coun­try is a Gar­den” to cul­ti­vate pa­tri­otic spirit and sing na­tion­al­is­tic an­thems such as “Me and My Mother­land.” Chil­dren take field trips to mu­se­ums com­mem­o­rat­ing the foun­da­tion of the party and the vic­tory over im­pe­rial Ja­pan.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment is­sued new in­struc­tions this sum­mer for teach­ing ele­men­tary and mid­dle school students “to love the party, the coun­try, so­cial­ism and the peo­ple.” Then it an­nounced plans in Au­gust to make Xi Jin­ping Thought, the au­thor­i­tar­ian leader’s guid­ing phi­los­o­phy, a manda­tory so­cial sci­ence course in high schools.

Spe­cial at­ten­tion is paid to uni­ver­si­ties, given students’ role in spear­head­ing the 1989 protests. They are now sub­ject to ide­o­log­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion fo­cused on “build­ing loy­alty to the party and pass­ing on the her­itage of so­cial­ism,” ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial out­line.

Some 30 uni­ver­si­ties, gov­ern­ments and min­istries host re­search in­sti­tutes ded­i­cated to the study of Xi Jin­ping Thought.

Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties be­lieve three decades of pa­tri­otic ed­u­ca­tion have been re­mark­ably suc­cess­ful in mold­ing a generation of loyal cit­i­zens, an­a­lysts say.

An in­flu­en­tial co­hort of Chi­nese in­ter­net users are so na­tion­al­is­tic they will cas­ti­gate an NBA man­ager or fash­ion la­bels into apol­o­giz­ing for any per­ceived in­sult to China. They have also shown dis­dain for their pro-democ­racy peers in Hong Kong.

“I think the Chi­nese pro­pa­ganda ma­chine is do­ing quite well with what we call the ‘ri­ot­ers’ in Hong Kong,” said a Chi­nese aca­demic who re­quested anonymity to dis­cuss the sen­si­tive sit­u­a­tion. “Peo­ple in Guangzhou, Bei­jing, Shang­hai, peo­ple are not sym­pa­thetic to Hong Kong.”

En­cour­aged by this suc­cess on the tightly con­trolled main­land, the party is plan­ning an­other at­tempt to ex­port a ver­sion of this cur­ricu­lum to Hong Kong — where con­cerns over the ero­sion of free speech and rel­a­tive po­lit­i­cal free­doms un­der­pin a widen­ing back­lash against Bei­jing.

It is fo­cus­ing more on “one coun­try” than on “two sys­tems.”

“What’s hap­pened in Hong Kong in re­cent months has been a big sur­prise to lead­ers in China, so they’re try­ing to find out the rea­son why Hong Kong be­came so anti-China or so anti-Chi­nese-gov­ern­ment,” said Zheng Wang, a Se­ton Hall Univer­sity pro­fes­sor who spe­cial­izes in iden­tity and na­tion­al­ism.

“They be­lieve that be­cause the peo­ple, es­pe­cially the young peo­ple, in Hong Kong never re­ceived pa­tri­otic ed­u­ca­tion, they lack of this kind of na­tional iden­tity,” Wang said. “But Hong Kong is to­tally dif­fer­ent to China, so I be­lieve they will en­counter very strong re­sis­tance, just like in 2012.”

Bei­jing’s last at­tempt, seven years ago, back­fired spec­tac­u­larly. A quar­ter­century af­ter Bri­tain re­turned Hong Kong to China, Bei­jing tried to in­tro­duce lessons to fos­ter greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion of main­land China and pro­mote the Com­mu­nist Party as a “pro­gres­sive, self­less and united rul­ing group.”

The plan sparked vo­cif­er­ous protests and Bei­jing was forced to back down.

Bei­jing has pro­ceeded al­most by stealth, en­cour­ag­ing study trips to the main­land and pro­mot­ing Man­darin lan­guage learn­ing in the Can­tonese-speak­ing ter­ri­tory. But most an­a­lysts do not ex­pect any new ef­fort to be any more suc­cess­ful this time.


Chil­dren from Deng­shikou Ele­men­tary in Bei­jing per­form “Lit­tle Red Army” at the Chi­nese Na­tional Theatre for Chil­dren.

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