Q: Is the ban on teaching "taboo subjects" at universities a step backwards?
Mainland universities have been ordered to steer clear of seven topics in their teaching, including universal values, press freedom, civil rights, judicial independence and the past mistakes of the Communist Party.
SCMP REPORT IN FULL
Mainland universities have been ordered to steer clear of seven topics in their teaching, including universal values, press freedom and civil rights, two university staff said, offering an insight into ideological control under the new Communist Party leaders.
A law professor with a Shanghai-based university who requested anonymity because he feared persecution said yesterday that teaching staff at his university had been briefed about the seven taboo subjects, which also include judicial independence and the past mistakes of the Communist Party.
“Are we still a university if we are not allowed to talk about even civil rights and press freedom?” he asked.
He said he had no idea which party department had given the order, saying they were simply told that it came from the party’s Central Committee.
A Beijing-based industrial relations professor said yesterday the order, in the form of a classified document, had come from the General Office of the party’s Central Committee, and only a select group of teaching and administrative staff at his university had been briefed about it.
The Beijing professor, who also declined to be named, said he had not personally seen the document but had been briefed on it because he had been outspoken.
“It’s apparent back-pedalling if we cannot talk about what the Communist Party did wrong in the past,” he said.
The tightening of ideological control via a gag order for teachers comes amid renewed controversy over remarks about Mao Zedong reportedly made by party general secretary Xi Jinping in a party meeting, which were mentioned in a commentary published this week in the official Guangming Daily.
The commentary cites Xi as saying that if Mao had been totally discredited in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, the party and the country’s socialist system would have been toppled and that would have plunged the county into turmoil.
Qiao Mu , an associate communications professor and director of the Centre for International Communication Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said he had not been told about the order. If it existed it would be difficult to track down because such orders were often circulated via administrative departments overseeing ideology and student affairs, he said.
Qiao said he had noticed Xi’s tendency to subscribe to what he called a “Cultural Revolution mindset and the mindset of the former Soviet Union” since he came to power. “He is very left-leaning, which is revealed in his comments about Mao,” Qiao said. “So don’t be surprised if there is such an order, although it might not take the form of a formal document and could be limited to select groups of people.”
That's all fine and dandy, but after reading your post and the article you linked as your info source, I'm still at a loss as to what the 7 taboo subjects are. I sniffed out a few, but not 7. Do ya think you could list them, like, from 1-to-7? Curious, that's all. Thanks.
My history students often tell me about their favourite Chinese teachers - these are the ones who offer contrary points of view on "sensitive" topics - points of view which are otherwise inaccessible to students.
Banning foreign teachers from talking is one thing - banning universities from discussing sociology or politics, modern Chinese history, or non-Communist ideologies is another, and merits attention.
There has been a general feeling amongst academics that universities would start offering more than just rote learning - they would become more like Western universities, and give students informed discussion, the opportunity to develop and voice opinions, and most importantly perspective. The Communist Party has snuffed that idea, and sent a clear message about the direction Chinese "education" will be heading in.
Within the CCP there are pro-"stability" and pro-reform camps - both ultra-conservative and ultra-nationalist by Western standards, but nevertheless existing, in different shades of terrible. XiJinPing has revealed himself to be somewhere towards the Stalinist extreme - suppress everything, monitor everyone. Measures such as this have very real consequences, and I think by the end of XiJinPing's term, HuJinTao (also in the conservative camp) will look like a daydream by comparison.