Ahead of CPC national congress, children across China are called upon to follow the Party line

By Xu Ming Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/8 18:38:39 Last Updated: 2017/10/15 11:38:39

In anticipation of the upcoming national congress of the Communist Party of China, primary and middle schools across China are organizing various campaign events involving the Young Pioneers

Almost all primary school students are Young Pioneers, who are expected to bear the same social ideals as the CPC

Students wearing red scarves celebrate the 67th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Young Pioneers on October 13, 2016, in Nantong, East China's Jiangsu Province. Photo: CFP


Tian Ruiyuan, a student at Beijing's Ganluyuan Primary School, carefully placed her letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping into an envelope and dropped it into a mailbox, just in time for Children's Day.

In the letter, Tian shared with Xi her feelings about a recent school activity at which she designed postage stamps themed around his "socialist core values," saying she "realizes the significance of spreading such values across society." 

Tian is one of the millions of primary school students that have recently participated in activities which aim to teach them about the country's political ideology ahead of the upcoming Communist Party of China (CPC) national congress.

As the 19th Session of the CPC National Congress approaches, primary and middle school students across China, the vast majority of whom are members of the Chinese Young Pioneers communist youth organization have "sent their hearts to Grandpa Xi" around Children's Day in letters, postcards, paintings and videos, after being asked to do so by the Chinese Young Pioneers Working Committee (YPWCC).

The committee asked local branches early last month "to encourage children to express their true feelings related to the 19th Party Congress … and to educate young pioneers to get ready for realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."

Activities have been held in schools throughout the country around Children's Day, themed "Celebrating the 19th Party Congress - I want to say my piece to Grandpa Xi."

Besides sending letters to the country's leader, there were also singing competitions, musical contests and visits to revolutionary sites, which aimed to make children feel more patriotic and to strengthen their attachment to the Party.

"Young pioneers are the vanguard of the Party. It is very important to connect them to the Party in various ways from an early age," noted Zhang Xixian, professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.

A special Children's Day

To meet the YPWCC's request, Ganluyuan Primary School worked with China Post to set up a post office especially for young pioneers and managed by pioneers.

According to Sun Xiaomeng, an instructor for young pioneers at the school, they have long used postage stamps as a medium for ideological and patriotic education. In the past five years, students have designed stamps about socialist core values, traditional Chinese culture and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

After the post office was opened, the first letters it sent were from the young pioneers to President Xi. "Their letters will be sent to the mailbox assigned by the YPWCC. It is of great meaning to the students. To them, Xi is now reachable," noted Sun.

In Beijing's Haidian District Experimental Primary School, a wall has been set aside to display posters designed by students on the themes suggested by the YPWCC.

"I hope, when building our country, we will not abandon nature, turning a sunny day into a smoggy one. [I hope] we leave nature some space while building society," one student wrote.

In Shanghai, a singing contest for young pioneers was held, during which pioneers from 16 districts not only sang patriotic songs, but also participated in a political knowledge contest.

In Tianjin, young pioneers visited the Memorial of Beijing-Tianjin Campaign - a military campaign during the Chinese civil war (1945-49) - and other revolutionary sites and established a "Kids Party History Research Association" to follow the footprints of the Party. They also visited construction projects in the city to learn about the development of the country since the 18th Party Congress in 2012.

In Northwest China's Qinghai Province, a bugle and drum competition - the signature instruments of the Young Pioneers - was held on June 1, attended by 10 bugle and drum teams across the province.

"For students at this age, the Party or national congress may still sound remote and vague. Such activities will help draw them closer to the Party and thus increase their sense of belonging to the pioneer organization," commented Sun.

Successors of communism

According to Sun, in the past they only arranged Children's Day activities for students in general, and this year, they will hold activities especially for young pioneers.

According to the YPWCC notice, these activities are to let the kids "listen to the Party and follow the Party's path."

While these kids, some of whom are barely toilet trained, may seem remote from the cause of communism, but as one of the country's most populous organizations, China's 130 million young pioneers are the training ground for the Communist Youth League, which is in turn the source of many who go on to join the Party. They are sometimes called the "successors of the communist cause."

This system originated in the Soviet Union, with China's first grassroots communist organizations being the various "children's leagues" established during the turmoil that proceeded the founding of the People's Republic of China. In 1953, the Chinese Young Pioneers was officially set up as a unified organization for kids.

Besides having their own flag and song, the young pioneers are known for their scarves, colored red to symbolize the blood of revolutionary martyrs, to the point that sometimes they are simply called "red scarves." Their slogan "Be ready for the communist cause all [my] life" is written on the walls of their activity rooms in schools across the country.

Every Chinese student between the age of 6 and 14 years old can join the organization and each year schools across the country hold ceremonies to draw in new members.

According to Sun, almost all students from all of China's ethnic groups join the organization in primary school. "As for foreign students, the school needs to further and thoroughly communicate with the parents about the matter," said Sun.

These kids can vote for their leaders and can be elected themselves. Those who perform well in activities and serve other students will be recommended to be members of the Communist Youth League.

The activities pioneers undertake have varied with the times. They used to be part of the movement for land reform in the Young Pioneers' early days. In 1963, they "learned from uncle Lei Feng," a soldier whose selflessness and sacrifice was central to propaganda efforts in that period. Today's activities are more child friendly, mostly being made up of games, volunteering, helping others and regular meetings.

As Shang Shuang, a pioneer instructor at a primary school in Beijing's Tongzhou district explained, every year they hold different activities to celebrate various festivals or holidays. "For example, the pioneers show respect to martyrs by sweeping tombs on Qingming Festival (a holiday during which people remember and show respect to their ancestors)."

"As I understand, one way to evaluate the activities of young pioneers is whether the students develop a sense of belonging to the team and a sense of honor, whether they love the people around them, their team and society at large," noted Sun.

Reinforcing the education

The education of young pioneers is of extreme significance to the Party. Sun feels the emphasis on the pioneers has been reinforced in recent years.

"Our activities are becoming increasingly frequent," said Sun. But she admitted that some students are not very conscious of their identity as pioneers and lack a sense of belonging. "Some don't like wearing the red scarf, and they wear it only when they are asked to."

In March, together with the Communist Youth League and China's Ministry of Education, the YPWCC published a reform scheme on young pioneers that is being carried out in schools throughout the country to reinforce the connection between young pioneers, the league and the Party, and to encourage innovation on activities for pioneers.

"At present, some practices for pioneers are alienated from reality and out of touch. The pioneers' sense of honor and belonging to the team is weak and the pioneers' instructors are not professional enough," an official with the YPWCC explained to the media in March.

"The reform aims to help pioneers love their team and increase their sense of honor and belonging, to increase the cohesiveness of the team, to increase the instructors' sense of worth, and to let families and society show more support to the team," the official said.

According to Sun, the YPWCC selects a number of instructors to receive training at Capital Normal University each year. This year she is lucky to be one of them.

"It is very important to strengthen the education of pioneers as some young people are ignorant about the Party," Zhang said.

Newspaper headline: Red childhood


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