27 June 2019
Karl Marx's thoughts are going to play a fundamental role in what Chinese university students are taught. Photos:,
Karl Marx's thoughts are going to play a fundamental role in what Chinese university students are taught. Photos:,

Xi rallies Chinese universities: On your Marx, get set, go

President Xi Jinping has called for greater “ideological guidance” in China’s universities and urged the study of Marxism, state media reported Monday.

As if China’s university students aren’t frustrated enough.

Now, aside from just looking forward to starting salaries less than that of a cab driver, they have to learn about class struggle and social inequality.

Talk about rubbing it in.

Now, instead of learning work-related skills their recently graduated friends have found they lack, students have to learn about core socialist values that “enhance the leadership of the Communist Party of China”.

There’s got to be a lot of potential employers looking for those.

“Enhancing CPC leadership and Party building in the higher learning institutions is a fundamental guarantee for running socialist universities with Chinese features well,” state news agency Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.

Xi said institutions of higher learning should shoulder the important tasks of studying, researching and publicizing Marxism, as well as training builders and successors of the socialist cause with Chinese characteristics.

Campuses should “cultivate and practice the core values of socialism in their teaching”, he said.

Xi’s comments are the latest sign of his politically conservative agenda and come amid a ratcheting up of controls over the media, dissidents and the internet, Reuters said.

While it is not yet clear if these tighter controls on western ideology will affect joint ventures between foreign and Chinese universities, it may not bode well.

Recent high-profile ventures include those between Duke University in the United States and Wuhan University in Hubei, New York Univeristy and East China Normal University in Shanghai, London Business School and Fudan University in Shanghai, Cornell University in the US and Tsinghua University in Beijing, and Northwestern University in the US and Peking University.

Curricula and speech at Chinese universities are tightly controlled by the government, though students have at times pushed the limits, including during the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests that were brutally suppressed by the army, Reuters said.

This could be a reason why so many Chinese students leave to study in the US.

A total of 274,439 Chinese students went to the US to study last year, a 16.5 percent increase over the year before.

Xinhua, as you might expect, offered support for Xi and the study of Marxism.

More than 90 years ago, it said, a group of young people with Marxist beliefs founded the CPC, which from the outset referred to itself as a party of workers and peasants and tried to build rural support for a communist revolution.

After decades of struggle, they took power and established the People’s Republic of China.

“This is the first time in recent years the CPC has taken actions to train young Marxists,” Xinhua quoted Liu Feng, director of the Chinese leadership science research center under the Chinese Academy of Governance, as saying.

“It is sending a strong signal that the ruling party is using Marxism to nurture successors of its cause and breed next-generation politicians who can apply Marxism in their practical work.”


In the US, the Confucius Institute program, which began establishing centers for Chinese language instruction in 2004, has been the subject of concern, criticism and controversy during its international expansion.

While the institutes certainly don’t teach Marxism, an air of “ideological guidance” does permeate the program, with critics pointing to attempts to advance the Chinese government’s political agendas on controversial issues such as Tibet and Taiwan.

A US congressional panel is investigating the Confucius Institutes to see if American schools are the victims of undue political influence and sacrificing academic freedom in exchange for teaching facilities for Chinese language and culture paid for by the Chinese government.

Earlier this year, the American Association of University Professors called for the cancellation of Confucius Institute agreements at 97 colleges and universities.

Major institutions like the University of Chicago and Pennsylvania State University have already terminated their deals.

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A strategist and marketing consultant on China business

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