Sat, Jun 23, 2018 - Page 5 News List

‘Xi Thought’ centers help young Chinese get it right

Reuters, BEIJING

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book The Governance of China is displayed at a bookstore in Beijing on Feb. 28.

Photo: AFP

Armed with interactive online courses, generous funding and new dedicated research institutes, China’s universities are on the frontlines of an effort to promote Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) thinking to China and the world.

Since October, many universities across China have placed “Xi Jinping Thought” at the core of their curricula — the first time since the era of Mao Zedong (毛澤東) that a Chinese leader has been accorded similar academic stature.

Mandatory ideology classes have been updated by the universities in response to instruction from the leadership that Xi’s ideas must enter the textbooks, classrooms and minds of students.

For Hu Angang (胡鞍鋼), an economics professor at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University and an expert in the field of “Chinese exceptionalism,” the emergence of a leader like China has been a long time coming.

Hu has for decades argued that China’s unique political system would eventually guide the country to become a superpower on par with the US.

Now he is among a growing number of thinkers studying what is officially known as “Xi Jinping Thought for Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” and disseminating it to students and officials.

“Xi’s proposals are all beneficial for the world, they are incomparable,” Hu said in his office on the Tsinghua campus in the city’s Haidian District. “China has entered a new era and is beginning to provide public goods to the world, just as I said it would 10 years ago.”

The mobilization by the universities, aside from securing support for Xi, is an attempt to return Chinese Communist Party ideology to pride of place in a society that has grown politically apathetic during decades of rapid economic growth, experts of Chinese politics said.

Xi wants the party’s values to be better accepted by the public so as to foster additional legitimacy, said Michael Gow, an expert on Chinese higher education at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou.

“The difference under Xi is that he is trying to expand the values of the state so that they appeal and resonate more with people that the state wants to exert dominance over,” he said.

The push to reinvigorate acceptance of party ideology comes as the Chinese National People’s Congress in March scrapped term limits for the presidency, clearing the way for Xi to rule for life, a decision that sparked widespread unease.

“Xi Thought,” which is literally a collection of Xi’s public statements, is an all-encompassing guide for China’s professed aims of becoming an economic and military power by 2050, under the strict control of the ruling Communist Party.

A decade ago, Hu would teach his students about the work of the World Bank as a gold standard for development, he said.

However, “from 2015 I began to change my classes, because China was now in front and the world was behind,” said Hu, a prominent public intellectual in China, who wears a watch on each wrist and grows animated when speaking of his favorite subject.

Personal support for Xi is nothing new, but the ideology drive goes further by attempting to build support for his ideas and leadership among officials and in elite institutions.

Not everyone shares Hu’s passion, however.

An undergraduate economics student at a university in Beijing with a Xi Thought institute said that political discussions still lacked any real link to people’s lives.

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