Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, February 06, 2015

Soft power; hard covers

Are demands for ideological purity going to derail the process of change in China or just keep it under control? Is this more than power politics? And how does it compare with demands from Japan about historical accounts of the past?

China Warns Against ‘Western Values’ in Imported Textbooks
This week, China’s ideological drive against Western liberal ideas broadened to take in a new target: foreign textbooks.

Meeting in Beijing with the leaders of several prominent universities, Education Minister Yuan Guiren laid out new rules restricting the use of Western textbooks and banning those sowing “Western values.”…

Mr. Yuan said at a meeting with university officials… “By no means allow teaching materials that disseminate Western values in our classrooms.”

The strictures on textbooks are the latest of a succession of measures to strengthen the Communist Party’s control of intellectual life and eradicate avenues for spreading ideas about rule of law, liberal democracy and civil society that it regards as dangerous contagions, which could undermine its hold on power.

On Jan. 19, the leadership issued guidelines demanding that universities make a priority of ideological loyalty to the party, Marxism and [President] Xi’s ideas…

Chinese universities must ensure that the ideas of Mr. Xi, the powerful and ardently traditionalist party leader, would “enter teaching materials, enter classrooms and enter minds,” Mr. Yuan said.

The Communist Party has repeatedly sought to reinforce ideological influence over education, especially since 1989 [Tianamen protests]… But many liberal intellectuals said Mr. Xi has elevated fear of Western subversion to a new extreme, and the scrutiny of textbooks reflects that fear.

“Higher education has been designated as a major battleground of ideological struggle,” Zhang Xuezhong, a lawyer in Shanghai…

While the party is unlikely to entirely ban such books, its determination to cleanse schools of politically troublesome ideas seems unstoppable. At the same meeting at which Mr. Yuan laid down his demands, university officials lined up to endorse the ideological clampdown…

Japan asks US publisher to change 'sex slave' textbook
Japan has asked a major US publisher to "correct" a school textbook that references World War II sex slaves, the foreign ministry said Thursday, as Tokyo's bid to polish its history moves abroad.

Diplomats petitioned McGraw-Hill to change passages of a book used in American schools that refer to "comfort women", a euphemism for those forced to work in military brothels.

"The Japanese government, through an overseas diplomatic office, in mid-December asked McGraw-Hill executives to make a correction in the content of their textbook titled Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past," a foreign ministry statement… said…

And in December the government lodged a complaint with Beijing over a reference to "300,000" people who were killed when imperial troops swept through the Chinese city of Nanjing, in a weeks-long orgy of rape and violence…

Diplomats protested that the figure is "different from Japan's position" and that it is "difficult to determine the concrete number of victims," sources told Kyodo News…

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