Magazine article Times Higher Education

'Neo-Maoists' Offer Chinese Lessons on National 'Pride'

Magazine article Times Higher Education

'Neo-Maoists' Offer Chinese Lessons on National 'Pride'

Article excerpt

Both the government and resurgent left-wing groups are promoting 'red education' in China's universities. David Matthews writes

Hao Da Xue - literally "good university" in Chinese - is no ordinary online education provider. It offers Chinese the chance to study, for example, a course on "being a competent Chinese person", which teaches "pride" in the face of perceived Western belittling of their country.

The university is part of China's "red education" movement, partly sanctioned by government, partly taken on independently by ultra-leftwing "Neo-Maoists", which has been growing in influence over the past 10 years.

Jude Blanchette, the former assistant director of the 21st-century China programme at the University of California, San Diego, is writing a book on the rise of China's Neo-Maoists, and he explained to Times Higher Education their impact on higher education.

"Over the past decade or so, there's been a push on the part of the Chinese Communist Party to retell its origin story, its founding myths," Blanchette says.

One plank of this plan has been an effort to revive the study of Marxism, partly to counter the spread of liberal and religious thought. Last year, Peking University began the construction of a new building to house its Marxism department - ironically funded by a bank.

Blanchette does not think that the department actually needs the extra space. But the construction is "symbolic of this larger effort" to encourage red education, he says.

More recently, President Xi Jinping repeated calls for such red education and urged universities to take up the agenda, Blanchette says.

However, resurgent leftist groups with views that appear to challenge those of the current party are also using the government's red education campaign as "cover" to advance their own educational vision, Blanchette explains.

Despite draping themselves in the symbolism of Mao, Neo-Maoist left-wing views often challenge the ruling party, which has turned China into a largely capitalist economy and led it into the World Trade Organisation in 2001.

Neo-Maoists, by contrast, want economic state planning and the protection of state assets from control by foreigners and capitalists, Blanchette says. …

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