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Why Did China Just Hear One More Mao-Era Phrase?
Image Credit: European Union

Why Did China Just Hear One More Mao-Era Phrase?

 
 

“Red and expert”, a phrase hasn’t been heard in official statements since the end of Mao era, was re-adopted by Chinese officials recently.

China’s education minister Chen Baosheng made a speech during his visit to Anhui Province from May 6 to May 7, giving instructions to local educators on how to cultivate talents. He demanded:

(The educators) should regard the ideological and political work as an important reform task…should guide students to better deal with the relations between ideals and aspirations… and should cultivate talents to be both red and expert, to have both ability and political integrity, and to become qualified builders and reliable successors of the socialism with Chinese characteristics.

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Minister Chen’s speech is not entirely new. On May 3, one day before Chinese Youth Day, President Xi Jinping paid a visit to China University of Political science and Law and said quite a bit to the youth present. One of the main points of his long talk was that he hoped the youth would “keep an unswerving faith to follow the Party with a lifetime practice.”

Thus, to further carrying out President Xi’s latest command and to reform current education that are “formalistic, unrealistic and away from people’s soul,” Minister Chen proposed five soul-searching questions, along with general solutions,  to his subordinates:

  1. For whom to teach?
    The key to solve the problem is the direction: (The educators should) firmly stick to the correct political direction and strengthen the socialist system’s rule of law with Chinese characteristics.
  2.  What to teach?
    The key is fields of study: (The educators should) properly handle the relationship between the world’s outstanding achievements and Chinese characteristics.
  3. How to teach?
    The key is methods: (The educators should) combine good teaching resources and research on teaching methods.
  4. Who to teach?
    The key is teachers: (The educators should) guide the teachers to follow the new concept, thought and strategy of governing the country.
  5. To teach whom?
    The key is students:  (The educators should) clarify that the object of the rule of law education is not only the students, but also the teachers, the masses, and especially the leading cadres.

Minster Zhang’s speech and his re-adoption of the phase “red and expert” immediately rekindled the Chinese people’s memory of the Mao era.

In fact, the phase  “red and expert” was first officially used in 1961 in the “Sixty-Article Regulations on Higher Education.” The Regulations said, “In teaching, the teachers’ leading role should be played, and red and expert teachers should be strived to cultivate.”

Contrary to what some people suppose today, the Regulations was issued in order to correct the ultra-left trend of thought in the late 1950s when Mao launched the Great Leap Forward Movement and the Anti-Rightist Movement. So the emphasis was actually on “expert” rather than “red” by then.

By contrast, Minister Zhang’s emphasis in his recent speech seemed to be on “red” rather than on “expert.” That was also why his speech caught the attention of Chinese netizens instantly.

One of the posts of Minister Zhang’s report has triggered 3,641 comments, yet only six of them were deemed positive enough to be displayed.

Meanwhile, more posts about the news have been removed or deleted from Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. As for those surviving posts, the comment functionality has been disabled. While Chinese people want to comment on Minister Zhang’s “red and expert”speech, the “red and expert” internet censors don’t want to give them that opportunity.

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