Row over ‘Western values’

By Hu Qingyun Source:Global Times Published: 2015-2-1 23:43:01

Minister’s ideology criticism sparks discussion

Remarks made by China's education minister in which he encouraged universities to "never let textbooks promoting Western values appear in our classes" have aroused discussion among the public, with many people criticizing his comments.

Education Minister Yuan Guiren made the remarks on Thursday at a forum in Beijing on improving ideological work in universities and colleges, urging universities to reinforce their ideological management, especially when it relates to textbooks, teaching materials and class lectures.

He told university officials to strengthen their management of the use of textbooks and materials directly imported from Western countries.

Also, the minister said remarks that slander the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), smear socialism or violate the country's Constitution and laws must never be promoted in college classrooms.

Many Chinese netizens have criticized Yuan's remarks while some observers claimed that such criticism was generated by confusion and misunderstanding of the meaning of the phrase "Western values."      

"The 'Western values' in Yuan's speech refer to Western political values and ideologies which were introduced into the country after China's opening-up but cannot fit the country's reality," Yin Yungong, an expert on the socialist system at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

Yin added that China needs to learn advanced technologies and other useful ideas from Western countries. But some values and ideologies, such as "universal values" should be excluded from classes as they may jeopardize China's political system and cause instability, Yin argued. 

Teachers should never be allowed to vent their personal grudges or discontent while teaching or passing  "negative ideas" onto their students, Yuan said. Yuan called on universities to give students positive guidance through intensified ideological work. He also told teachers to stand firm and hold the "political, legal and moral bottom line." Yuan's speech was in line with guidelines on ideological work in colleges which were issued by the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council on January 19. The guidelines note that ideology-based instruction in colleges is "a strategic project that can consolidate the foundation [of values] and shape the spirit."

It is not unusual for teachers to promote Western values or censure the Party, some political instructors and professors told the Global Times.

"To speak highly of 'Western values' while belittling the Party may help some teachers to attract students' attention," a political instructor, surnamed Wu, from a university in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, told the Global Times.

Wu said that students could become "extreme" and turn into a destabilizing factor if they receive such education.

A report by the Liaoning Daily published in November 2014 said that many college teachers mocked Marxism, praised Western values and questioned the central government's major policies. The report said that 80 percent of college students have encountered such teachers.


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