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“Thought Control” and the Dark Side of China’s Education System

"Though I Am Gone" (dir. Hu Jie

China News Watch‘s Stephen Chan, discussing a recent CCTV broadcast, reports on recent efforts made by Xi Jinping and the CCP to “to step up ideological control of students and young lecturers” at Chinese Universities. Recently enacted, wide-spread initiatives to tighten controls and censorship of Chinese cultural life–from the internet to TV and film and beyond–are now increasingly apparent in the education system. Said Chan, “Universities have long been regarded as the most important stronghold for the party’s grip on ideology.”

While many have lamented the Party’s recent social control initiatives to be retrogressive, these changes proposed by Xi–the presumed successor to current CCP President Hu Jintao–are dually troubling, stirring up uncomfortable memories of education “reforms” made during the Cultural Revolution.

Hu Jie‘s 2007 film Though I am Gone exhibits some of the horrifying effects of educational controls run tragically amok in the mid-1960s. Hu’s film documents Revolutionary fervor perverted to violence, telling the story of a group of Red Guard students who fatally attacked their teacher Bian Zhongyun in 1966. Accused of being a “Rightist” and counter-revolutionary, Bian was a Beijing educator whose death represents the senseless brutality of the Cultural Revolution era—much of it sprung from dogmatic control and misplaced ideology.

Chen reports on Xi’s strategy within the university system:

Xi also emphasised the importance of keeping an eye on lecturers, especially young ones. “Young teachers have many interactions with students and cast significant influence on them,” Xi said, adding that their political opinions and moral standards “have a very strong influence on students. They also play a very important role in the spread of ideas”. Xi said universities must make it a paramount task to “instruct” the thoughts of young lecturers and recruit more of them to join the party.


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