Xi Jinping Thought to Be Taught in Universities

The Guardian’s Tom Phillips reports that two Chinese universities have set up departments dedicated to the study of Xi Jinping Thought. The president’s political doctrine was incorporated into the Party’s constitution at the closing session of the 19th Party Congress on Tuesday. This development is part of broader efforts to embed Xi’s doctrine in university curriculums.

The first and most prominent of the Xi-related departments will be at Beijing’s Renmin or People’s University, one of China’s top institutions.

The Beijing Daily newspaper reported that following Xi’s elevation, the university had tasked top scholars with probing what is officially called on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era. They include Ai Silin, president of the School of Marxism at Tsinghua University, Xi’s alma mater, and Han Qingxiang, a senior academic from the Communist party’s Party School.

“[The department] will also help universities around the country incorporate Xi Thought into their textbooks and introduce it to their classrooms, as well as into students’ minds,” the Beijing Daily said.

[…] A second centre is reportedly being set up in Tianjin, a city about 70 miles southeast of Beijing. According to E-North, a local news website, that department opened on Wednesday at the Tianjin University of Finance and Economics and will focus on the “ideological and political education” of local students.

Further afield, the Global Times reported that “study groups” were being organised from north to south, where cadres could “learn and implement the Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”. [Source]

Authorities have launched an extensive campaign to promote Xi’s thinking. On Sina Weibo, People’s Daily enlisted the help of Chinese celebrities to garner public support for Xi’s “new era” mantra. From Manya Koetse at What’s On Weibo:

On Tuesday, Party newspaper People’s Daily initiated Weibo hashtag ‘Wèi xīn shídài dǎ call’ #为新时代打call#, roughly meaning ‘give a shout-out to the new era‘ or ‘show support for the new era,’ with a brief explanatory sentence saying: “In the new era, it is our turn to strive to make China really strong!”

[…] The participation of big celebrities turned the campaign into an online hit.

Chinese actress Wang Ziwen, a.k.a. Olivia Wang, who has more than 11 million fans on her Weibo page (@王子文Olivia), posted a 4-second clip in which she gave a ‘shout out’ to China’s new era.

Celebrities such as pianist Lang Lang (郎朗 11.8 million Weibo fans), singer Zhang Yixing (张艺兴, 27 million fans on Weibo), singer Jike Junyi (吉克隽逸, 4+ million followers), and many others also posted similar ±5-second-videos in which they speak out in support of China’s ‘new era.’

[…] The wave of celebrity videos on China’s new era triggered thousands of reactions from Weibo’s netizens and celebrity fans who then also expressed their support for the Party’s new plans. [Source]

Meanwhile, in rural villages, local officials have turned to old-time loudspeakers to spread the Party’s ideologyJessica Meyers at Los Angeles Times reports:

All 5,700 villages in this section of Hebei, an industrial province surrounding Beijing, heard the new party policies on loudspeakers, according to the state-run New China News Agency.

[…] Nanmiao’s 300 villagers can listen to Su Yanru’s voice flow through a cluster of loudspeakers strung to electricity poles. The local radio announcer, who broadcasts from a building nearby, told a Cangzhou television station that he aimed to “thoroughly pass the spirit of Xi’s report to the people.”

Loudspeakers started appearing in factories and playgrounds in the early 1970s and quickly became a common sight. They fell silent later in the decade, with the death of Mao and the rise of television. Their return, to mountainous villages in the country’s south and smoggy towns in the frigid northeast, is an old-school strategy for what’s become a highly sophisticated propaganda apparatus.

“Putting the loudspeaker system back means the party wants to impose its own will on people, no matter if they want to listen or not,” said Zhang Lifan, a Beijing historian and political commentator. “It’s moving backward.” [Source]

As part of the propaganda campaign, extra-large portrait images of Xi Jinping dominated the front pages of several Chinese newspapers this week as the media reported on the new leadership makeup of the Politburo Standing Committee. Compared to the People’s Daily front pages from previous party congresses, this year’s front page shows a notable change in layout that seem to suggest efforts to undermine collective leadership and reinforce Xi’s dominance. From AP:

Photos of Xi took up as much as one-quarter of party newspapers and titles as diverse as China Sports News. Rows of magazines at newsstands had Xi’s face on the cover.

[…] Party spokespeople reject suggestions Xi is building a personality cult, but Thursday’s media saturation adds to the most intense propaganda for a Chinese leader’s personal image since Mao.

[…T]he propaganda focus on Xi is a break with his most recent predecessors–Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin–who appeared regularly on state media but shared space with other leaders.

Many newspapers Thursday featured photos of the latest Standing Committee appearing before reporters. But many of those were accompanied by large photos of Xi alone.

More than 24 hours after the new Standing Committee was appointed, some state television channels still were showing repeated scenes of delegates applauding as Xi and other party leaders walked past and waved. [Source]