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Explained | China's new patriotic education law

China’s national legislature has passed the Patriotic Education Law, effective from January 1, 2024. The law is being viewed as part of President Xi Jinping’s efforts to instill the Communist Party’s line in the minds of citizens from a young age.

While it claims to promote patriotism, the law also raises questions about suppression of dissent and scepticism, labelled as “historical nihilism.”

“Historical nihilism” is a phrase used in China to describe public doubt and scepticism over the Chinese Communist Party’s description of past events. The law is being viewed as an attempt to solidify the Party’s version of history and limit critical thinking.

The law outlines various responsibilities for government departments, schools, and families in promoting patriotic education, but its emphasis on “rational, inclusive, and open-minded” approaches seems at odds with its underlying authoritarian tendencies.

The law introduces the concept of “One Country, Two Systems” education for Hong Kong and Macau, amidst concerns about their distinct identities and freedoms already being chipped away. In a provocative move, the Party has claimed that the law applies to Taiwan as well. The law, however, does not provide any information as to how Chinese government officials are going to carry out the “patriotic teachings” in Taiwan.

The law’s focus on instilling patriotism by incorporating the Party’s ideologies into the curriculum raises concerns about the independence of educational institutions and their ability to foster critical thinking. It’s seen as part of a broader effort to assert control over the education system, limiting outside influences and shaping young minds to align with the Party’s agenda.

(Published 27 October 2023, 08:48 IST)

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