The government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) ordered primary and secondary schools to remove from curricula and libraries foreign books that are believed by the authorities to “worship and pandering to foreign thought” and to promote a wide range of ideas, from religious doctrines to “individualism”.
The move comes as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding, prompting the government to intensify its propaganda campaigns. Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2013, the CCP has cracked down on free speech in an attempt to direct public opinion, stifle dissent and criticism.
On 31 March 2021, the PRC Ministry of Education issued a new set of “Administrative Measures for the Use of Extracurricular Reading Material for Elementary and Middle School Students on Campuses”.
The rules prohibit schools from recommending to students, or using on campuses, books that challenge CCP ideology and agenda. Among the targeted books are:
1) books that “go against the political line, general and specific policies of the [Communist] Party, slander and defame leaders of the Party and the country as well as heroes and model workers, or facetiously dramatise the history of the Party, country and armed forces”（违背党的路线方针政策，污蔑、丑化党和国家领导人、英模人物，戏说党史、国史、军史的);
2) books that “harm the reputation and interests of the country, are anti-China, insult and defame China” (损害国家荣誉和利益的，有反华、辱华、丑华内容的);
3) books that “divulge state secrets and harm national security (泄露国家秘密、危害国家安全的);
4) books that “endanger the country’s reunification, sovereignty and territorial integrity” (危害国家统一、主权和领土完整的);
5) books whose “contents violate policies regarding religion, disseminate religious doctrines, creeds and rules” (存在违反宗教政策的内容，宣扬宗教教理、教义和教规的);
6) books whose “contents violate ethnic policies, incite ethnic hatred, ethnic discrimination, disrupt national unity, or disrespect ethnic customs and habits” (存在违反民族政策的内容，煽动民族仇恨、民族歧视，破坏民族团结，或者不尊重民族风俗、习惯的);
7) books that “promote individualism, neoliberalism, historical nihilism and similar mistaken viewpoints, and that worship and pander to trends in foreign thought” (宣扬个人主义、新自由主义、历史虚无主义等错误观点，存在崇洋媚外思想倾向的);
8) books that contain “vulgarity, kitsch and other harmful trends, vulgar style, unhealthy thought; that promote [the belief in] supernatural forces, mysticism and superstition; that have obscene, pornographic, violent contents; that refer to evil cults, gambling, drug use; that encourage suicide, incite to commit crimes” (存在低俗媚俗庸俗等不良倾向，格调低下、思想不健康，宣扬超自然力、神秘主义和鬼神迷信，存在淫秽、色情、暴力、邪教、赌博、毒品、引诱自杀、教唆犯罪).
The regulations emphasize the role of the CCP as the leader not only in the realm of political action but also of public opinion and individual thought. They contain a number of references to Party dogmas and jargon. For instance, “reunification” refers to the PRC’s territorial claims on independent Taiwan. “Ethnic policies” is a reassuring phrase that belies Beijing’s “virulent form of cultural nationalism that pathologizes dissent and diversity as an existential threat to the Party and the nation.” “Evil cults” is a term which Beijing applies to spiritual movements that it deems a threat to its power, such as Falun Gong – a spiritual movement which is persecuted and banned in the PRC, and which in recent years has been increasingly involved in Western politics as one of the staunchest supporters of Trump and the far-right.
In 2020, Beijing had banned foreign teaching materials like textbooks and classic novels in all public primary and secondary schools.
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