18 February 2019
At a Politburo meeting last December, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of promoting core socialist values among young people in the mainland. Photo: Reuters
At a Politburo meeting last December, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of promoting core socialist values among young people in the mainland. Photo: Reuters

Maoist doctrines are rearing their ugly heads again under Xi

“Be red and be professional” (“又紅又專”)was a slogan coined by Mao Zedong at the 3rd Plenary Session of the 8th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China held in 1957.

During that meeting, Mao called on party officials on all levels to learn and work harder in order to excel in the policy areas to which they were assigned, so that they could become both “red” and “professional”. Being “red”, according to Mao, means being absolutely loyal to the party leadership and faithful to the revolutionary socialist cause.

Since then “be red and be professional” had become one of the most chanted slogans in the mainland, especially during the Cultural Revolution. It wasn’t until 1978 when former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping assumed power and ditched Mao’s ultra-left party line that the phrase began to slowly disappear in party propaganda.

However, as the mainland has witnessed a massive return to the leftist track in all aspects of society ever since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, the once moribund slogan has been resurrected, and become more and more frequently used by official mouthpieces in China.

At a Politburo meeting held last December to discuss the progress of ideological cultivation among university students, Xi stressed that the party leadership must stay the course in promoting core socialist values among young people in the mainland, and make sure universities across the nation must fulfill their sacred role as the cradle for nurturing future successors to the Marxist-Leninist cause.

On May 3 this year, during a visit to the University of Political Science and Law of China in Beijing, Xi again emphasized the importance of the party having a firm grip on the ideological nurturing among university students. 

And on the orders of Xi, ideological education is once again given priority in higher education institutions across the mainland.

As a matter of fact, in recent years there has already been talk in the mainland that Xi is attempting to tighten his grip on ideology by ordering the “7 Don’ts” on the university campus, which are: don’t ever discuss universal values, press freedom, development of the civil society, civil rights, historical mistakes of the party, special privileges of high-ranking party officials, and judicial independence.

It appears Xi is now taking one aggressive step further to guard young people in China against the “spiritual contamination” of western values by once again promoting the principle of “be red and be professional” and enhancing ideological education on university campuses across the nation.

In order to toe Xi’s line and play it safe, many universities in the mainland have recently banned open discussion about humanist subjects such as democracy and the rule of law in lectures.

One might still remember that back in 1917, the late professor Cai Yuanpei (蔡元培), a highly respected academic and former vice-chancellor of the Peking University (now Beijing University), said that a university is supposed to be a place where all schools of thought, be they leftist, centrist, or rightist, are allowed to flourish and spread freely, so that young people can be exposed to them as much as possible, and by doing so, they can broaden their horizons and push back the frontiers of knowledge.

It is really sad and ironic that exactly 100 years after professor Cai made his famous comment, universities across China these days are regressing to being mere party apparatuses where young people are spoon-fed with rigid Marxist-Leninist doctrines.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May12

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版

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