09/27/2023, 14.18
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Beijing: Xi's thinking also in university English courses

by John Ai

The new textbook contains the Chinese president's speeches, while the cultural aspects related to the Anglo-Saxon world have disappeared. This is the first time this has happened since the end of the Cultural Revolution, marking a return to the cult of personality. Moreover, even in the best universities, students will no longer be obliged to pass the English exam for graduation. Fears of isolation from the rest of the world.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - China has begun to include the thoughts of Chinese President Xi Jinping also in English courses at universities, where ideological education is compulsory and political doctrines occupy a large part of the school curriculum, after having already launched t the beginning of the year a campaign to ban Western democratic thought from the national education system. The decision is therefore part of the Chinese authorities' effort to extend Xi's ideology to all areas of higher education.

In recent days, Chinese students began their first English lesson with a story describing Xi Jinping's life in the countryside of northwest China during the Cultural Revolution.

The new textbook, entitled College English for New Era (新时代大学英语), contains speeches and remarks by the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, including a series of provocations towards the United States: in one passage it is said that students who received their education in the United States were unable to find work in China due to their Western preconceptions.

In recent years, Chinese authorities have begun to use the term "new era" to define the period after 2013, the year Xi came to power. A source told the Financial Times that the latest version of the book, to be published next year, will include an English translation of Xi's speech at the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.

According to a report by the British newspaper, over 300 universities across China have adopted the new volume to ensure that students have a "correct view of the world". According to what we read in the preface, the authors aim to "correct" the tendency of previous texts which focused only on the culture of the Anglo-Saxon world.

The editor of the book, Professor Shi Jian (石坚), of Sichuan University, underlined in April that China is fighting not only a trade war and a technological war against the United States, but also an ideological war.

Shi argues that Western theories cannot explain China's experience, so it was necessary to integrate national ideology into the study of foreign languages. "Telling the Chinese story" is also Xi's request to the official media, to be promoted especially in international communication venues.

But it is the first time that an English textbook contains the stories and speeches of the Party's supreme leader since the end of the Cultural Revolution, and critics say China is returning to the personality cult of the old days.

During the Mao era, English textbooks were filled with political slogans, and students began by learning to recite “Long live Chairman Mao” in their first lesson.

As international exchange became more frequent, English textbooks focused on introducing Western culture and lifestyle, more useful for everyday conversation and communication.

Furthermore, today universities, including the best ones, no longer require students to pass the national English test as a requirement to obtain a degree. Last week, Xi'an Jiaotong University announced the new measures by opening an online debate. According to some, China is isolating itself from the world by doing so.

In addition to English language courses, a course on Xi's thought is to be incorporated into all other faculties, including the natural sciences. The new textbook on Xi's thought for university students was published in early September, and the mandatory course will be part of the entrance exam for master's degrees in December.

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