China’s education minister has vowed to ban university textbooks which promote “Western values”, state media said, in the latest sign of ideological tightening under President Xi Jinping.
“Never let textbooks promoting Western values appear in our classes,” minister Yuan Guiren said, according to a report late Thursday by China’s official Xinhua news agency.
“Remarks that slander the leadership of the Communist Party of China” and “smear socialism” must never appear in college classrooms, he added according to Xinhua.
China’s universities are run by the ruling Communist party, which tightly controls discussions of history and other topics it construes as a potential threat to its grip on power.
The party often brands concepts such as multiparty elections and the separation of powers as “Western”, despite their global appeal and application.
China has tightened controls on academics since Xi assumed the party leadership in 2012, with several outspoken professors sacked or jailed.
Xia Yeliang, an economics professor at the prestigious Peking University, was fired from his post in 2013 after a 13-year tenure in a decision he attributed to persistent calls for political change in China.
Xia was one of the original signatories of the reformist petition Charter 08, whose main author Liu Xiaobo remains in prison even after winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
The university attributed the dismissal to poor teaching, and he moved to the US last year.
Yuan’s remarks came shortly after Xi called for authorities to increase the party’s leadership of universities, and to “strengthen and improve ideological work”.
Teachers must “stand firm and hold the “political, legal and moral bottom line,” Yuan added, using a common expression for support of China’s authoritarian political system.
A Chinese province last month announced plans to install CCTV cameras in university classrooms, sparking an outcry from lawyers who say the move would further curb academic freedom.
Authorities have in the past installed video equipment in the classrooms of outspoken academics, most notably Uighur economics professor Ilham Tohti, who was sentenced to life in prison for separatism in September.
Evidence from the classroom cameras was used to convict the scholar, in a case that was condemned by human rights groups.
China has greatly expanded its higher education system as its economy has grown, with the total number of universities and colleges more than doubling in the past decade.
But many children of the country’s political and business elite prefer to study at institutions in the US and Europe, including Xi’s daughter, who has reportedly attended Harvard University since 2010.