On Oct. 24, China’s national legislature approved a law on “patriotic education” to reinforce its grip on its youths, local media reported.
According to state-owned news agency Xinhua, the law will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, affecting local and central government departments and schools and families, Radio Free Asia (RFA) wrote.
It also aims to build part of the government’s “ethnic unity” policy, which has targeted ethnic minorities like the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, and bans minority language-teaching like that in Inner Mongolia and several Tibetan communities in Sichuan.
“Deeply rooted in the national culture, patriotism serves as a vital bond among various ethnic groups,” Xinhua wrote about the law.
“While it is enacted to promote patriotism, the law stresses the need to be rational, inclusive and open-minded, open the country wider to the world and embrace other civilisations,” Xinhua added, referring to the law’s mandate on respecting the “history and cultural traditions of other countries,” Reuters wrote.
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The communist-owned paper also states how some people “are at a loss about what is patriotism” and are vulnerable to “historical nihilism” — a political term used to describe any opinion that allegedly goes against the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) regime.
The enactment of the law came after a Chinese AI firm, iFlytek, announced its suspension of sales of a study assistance device after it defamed late communist leader Mao Zedong. To quote the Callianshe news service, chairman Liu Qingfeng of iFlytek said that the device was removed from shelves following a parent’s complaint that it generated an essay calling Mao “narrow-minded” for instigating the Cultural Revolution in 1966.
iFlytek’s shares fell by 10 percent on Oct. 24 as a result of the incident, Reuters reported. Liu was also quoted as saying that a supplier and iFlytek staff were “punished.”
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Controlling the youth
According to Ye Yaoyuan — chair of international studies at the University of St. Thomas, Texas — the law was made as part of “a series of step-by-step processes of rolling out strict controls on freedom of speech.”
Moreover, Chen Kuide, executive director of the Princeton China Initiative, said that the focus on enforcing patriotism reveals Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s “sense of insecurity” over a stagnating economy and other global factors involving the invasion of Ukraine and Taiwan.
“[Beijing] believes that it must be prepared to deal with the possibility of war, [for example if it decides] to attack Taiwan,” Chen said.
Many Chinese citizens have also been in disarray over government propaganda, which is said to be helping authorities “maintain stability.”
“Stability maintenance has reached the grassroot level,” current affairs commentator Wang Zheng said. “The whistleblower [parent] seemed to think he had made a great contribution by reporting and exposing what he found,” he added.
The city government of Hong Kong is also preparing to focus on patriotic education from the 2025-26 academic year, intending to replace the general studies subject in its primary schools with a “humanities curriculum,” SCMP wrote.
Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu affirmed on Oct. 25 the goal of finishing local national security legislation by 2024 and introducing measures to spread national awareness. This came as a response to the patriotic education law.