The debate over Western influence in Chinese education continues. On January 31, 2015, a text began appearing on the Internet under the title “Beijing University Professor Shen Kui’s Three Questions to Minister of Education Yuan Guiren: The 4th Plenum of the 18th Party Congress Called for Governing the Country in Accordance with the Constitution and the Law, and Your January 29 Speech has Left People Confused Beyond Comprehension.” Here are the tree questions:
First, how to differentiate “Western values” from “Chinese values”? As everyone knows, it was only after it crossed the seas that the specter of Communism, which haunted Europe over the preceding two centuries, could give birth to the Chinese Communist Party. Our current Constitution stipulates we must adhere to Marxism, that we must carry forward the teachings of Internationalism, Communism, dialectical materialism, and historical materialism, and all these originated in the West and have influenced China. There are countless examples where the East has learned from the West. Respectfully Minister Yuan, may I request that you clearly delineate the line between “Western values” and “Chinese values?”
Second, how to differentiate between “attacking or defaming the Party’s leaders or smearing socialism” and “reflecting on the crooked road that the Party has taken, and bringing to light dark realities?” There is no governing political party that would dare to claim that it has never committed and will never commit mistakes. There is no society, regardless of whether it goes by the name “socialist” or “capitalist,” that would dare to claim that it is a society without any dark side whatsoever. Respectfully Minister Yuan, may I request that you provide clear criteria for differentiating between “attacking” and “reflecting,” “smearing” and “enlightening?”
Third, how will the Ministry of Education that you lead carry out the principles of ruling the country in accordance with the Constitution and laws? If you yourself already have clear and easily understood answers to the two preceding questions, then I would ask that you make another speech at the appropriate time. If you yourself cannot answer those questions without equivocation, then I would ask that in the future you exercise discretion, because the Ministry of Education that you lead has implications for “the scientific and cultural level of the entire country” (Constitution Article 19), for “natural and social science undertakings,” (Constitution Article 20), and for citizens’ exercise of their “freedom to conduct scientific research, engage in literary and artistic endeavors, and other cultural activities.” (Constitution Article 47) When all is said and done, it implicates the rejuvenation of the Chinese people. If you are capricious in expounding on what can and cannot be done, if there is even the slightest lack of caution, there exists the possibility that the Constitution and laws may be violated.
On February 3, 2015, the websites of many of China’s most prominent media outlets, including the People’s Daily, Xinhua, and Seeking Truth, published an article entitled “In Order to Get a Handle Over University Ideology Work, We Must Dare to Remove Obstacles” by Zhu Jidong (朱继东), the Deputy Director and Party Secretary of the State Cultural Security and Ideology Building Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Here is an excerpt:
In his words and deeds Yuan Guiren has been doing as he is duty-bound to do, so why is he being attacked from all sides? There are many reason, but the most fundamental one is that those who are participating in the attacks have in recent years dared to unsheathe their swords to besiege ideological territory, and have not received the punishment that they should, which has made them increasingly brazen. Therefore, in order to get a handle over university ideology work, we must dare to remove obstacles, and make a determined effort to remove those teachers who would disseminate speech that attacks the Party or Socialism. Only in this way can we truly punish evil and promote good, and usher in a new springtime for university ideology work.
These particular attacks have been launched by some university instructors. One among them, a law professor at a certain university, had an essay that directed three questions to Yuan Guiren which deliberately blurred “Western value systems,” a concept which already had a clear and specific meaning, as a means to distort and twist to the point of becoming an attack. In addition, it was quickly spread over Weibo and Weixin. Then well-known professors of law and politics from institutes of higher learning including Beijing University and Chinese University of Politics and Law used their verified Sina Weibo accounts to further fan the flames, creating ideological chaos.
. . . .
Those university professors and public intellectual Big V’s who in recent years have regularly launched verbal attacks on the Party and socialism are hateful, but they have not dared to be so brazenly antagonistic. As a result, they have been looking for an opportunity vent their discontent, while at the same time carrying out attacks on any word or deed that supports strengthening ideology work.
. . . .
The problem with China right now is that there are Party Secretaries and officials at some agencies responsible for controlling ideology who for many years have played it safe, and have been unwilling to draw their swords. They are not only unwilling to criticize incorrect ideological trends, but have also failed to support those comrades who insist on pushing positive energy. In some case they go so far as to use biting irony and burning satire to covertly suppress them.
What can be done to change the situation when those who dare to unsheathe their swords in the ideological arena are repeatedly subjected to attacks from all sides? The most important thing is impose severe punishments on those who would attack those who dare to unsheathe their swords in the ideological arena, and we must dare to strike out and yank out the nails. The main reason certain people and forces repeatedly attack those who dare to unsheathe their swords in the ideological arena is because those people and forces have not received the punishment they deserve. For example, in the case of the three questions to Yuan Guiren, neither the law professor from a certain university nor the Big V professor at his school received the punishment they deserved for repeatedly launching verbal attacks on the Party and socialism, and have instead won fame and fortune. I fear this may have a malicious effect upon instructors at institutes of higher learning. In addition, besides university instructors, there are quite a few journalists, lawyers, business people, and artists who are Big Vs on Sina Weibo who have repeatedly participated in attacks, and who have not received the punishment they deserve. It truly is the failure of certain people at relevant government agencies to do their jobs that has lead to these attackers becoming increasingly brazen. Therefore, relevant government agencies must severely investigate and prosecute these people and forces, and grab a few model examples of being on the wrong side and give them particularly harsh punishment.
At the same time, we must resolutely take the high ground and block Western ideological infiltration and peaceful evolution, and strike hard at their representatives and spokespersons. In recent years the West has used non-governmental organizations and foundations as camouflage, and has carried out infiltration with the assistance of the Internet and other channels, in an effort to increase their infiltration of China’s ideology and the strength of peaceful evolution. They have not only been actively searching for agents in China, but have also been adopting various means to vigorously manipulate the political genetic code of these people, enabling them to become a force to besiege those who would draw their swords in the ideological arena. Not only must we be on guard against this, but we must also resolutely attack all forms of infiltration into China’s ideology and peaceful evolution, and under no circumstances allow them to prevail. We must also strike hard at those domestic agents and spokespersons for hostile foreign powers, show no mercy, and punish every single one we uncover.
These translations originally appeared on the blog, Fei Chang Dao.