China orders academics to push communist doctrine online

New guidelines from the country's education ministry call on teachers of political doctrine to promote "core socialist values" on social media.
New guidelines from the country's education ministry call on teachers of political doctrine to promote "core socialist values" on social media.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese academics will be required to promote Communist Party doctrine on the Internet, state-run media said Thursday (Oct 15), with promotions dependent on their ability to guide political discussions online.

New guidelines from the country's education ministry call on teachers of political doctrine to promote "core socialist values" on social media, the state-run Global Times said.

The move is the latest effort by China's ruling Communist Party to push its ideology in classrooms, raising fears over tightening limits on already curtailed academic freedoms, as well as more broadly.

The news followed an inaugural "Global Marxism Conference" held at the weekend at the prestigious Peking University, which is investing heavily in attempts to modernise the ideology in a form acceptable to the Communist Party.

Rival institution Tsinghua has taken efforts a step further by launching a free online course in "Mao Zedong Thought" aimed at students abroad last month.

Chinese teachers preaching communist doctrine in universities must use "Internet lingo" accessible to young people to spread state-sanctioned political views, the education ministry said on its website.

They should also "identify, resist and critique harmful information online", it added, promising monetary awards and promotions to those who prove successful.

China has long mandated that all university students take "political education" classes.

But teachers of such courses will themselves have to sit through at least 24 hours of "ideological education" annually, the ministry added.

Some teachers have not been attending the required training courses, the newspaper cited an academic as saying.

"Unfortunately, some teachers still scorn those seminars," Tang Zhongbao, an associate professor of Marxism told the paper.

"Therefore, it is important to set a minimum course length to guarantee their participation," he added.

China's President Xi Jinping, who has overseen tightened media censorship and a crackdown on dissent, has called for the Communist Party to increase control over universities.

Analysts say academic freedom has decreased since he assumed the party leadership in 2012, with several outspoken professors sacked or jailed.

China's education minister said this year that textbooks promoting "Western values" would be banned at universities.

State-run media have bemoaned that students in China's expanding university sector have lost interest in official ideology.

"It's becoming obvious that the ideas of Marx no longer hold the attention of China's students," the Global Times said in May.