On July 15, the Chinese government released a list of 100 books and 100 movies, documentaries, and television shows they found suitable for the nation’s youth to read. This list was a joint effort from three organizations: Central Propaganda Department, Ministry of Education, and Central Communist Youth League.
These organizations plan to promote these works heavily among China’s youth. According to them, their goal is to:
“Deeply and thoroughly realize the spirit of the Party’s 18th National Congress, to strongly promote the national spirit and the spirit of the age among the youth, and to encourage all youth to fight to realize the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
What does that mean exactly? It means that they want to promote Communist ideology and Chinese nationalism. Just look at the titles of the first three books on the list: Stories of Marx, China Has a Mao Zedong, and Zhou Enlai: the Early Years.
Luckily, Chinese parents aren’t happy. The list was circulated electronically, and parents had their say in the comments sections with comments like:
“When I have children, I guess I’ll buy books and read to them myself. This brainwashing is too intense.”
The former head of Google in China, Kai-fu Lee, sent out this tweet that seemed to capture the sentiments of the nation:
“I recommended the following children’s books, but they were politely rejected by a certain department: Cinderella, Charlotte’s Web, The Princess Diaries, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Now that I’ve seen this list, I understand why.”
This movement in China is the opposite of the Banned Books movement in the United States in that the government is actively trying to use these books to brainwash the nation’s youth, but the message is the same: words are powerful, and they can be used to teach children whatever we want to teach them, just by allowing them to open up a book.
China’s parents had it right, and if their government continues to push ideology they do not agree with, it will be important for them to present a balanced view at home.