The “thought” of XI Jinping has been embedded in the Communist Party’s constitution—and will now be taught at some 20 Chinese universitiesby Isabel Hilton / December 23, 2017 / Leave a comment
In the closing years of the Cultural Revolution, as the personality cult around the ageing dictator Mao Zedong reached its zenith, there were a number of informal rules that could be applied to university essays to avoid a poor mark, or, worse still for a Chinese student, a political shadow.
The rules were simple: open any given section with a Mao quotation, introduced by the ubiquitous phrase, “Chairman Mao teaches us that…” , check the Party line on the topic under discussion, and repeat the exercise at regular intervals throughout the text. Failure to observe this code of practice could result in a mark that reflected the teachers’ obligation to enforce political conformity, often accompanied by a marginal note that pointed out that although the grammar is correct, the meaning is wrong.
In the weeks following the 19th Party Congress in Beijing in October, Party Secretary Xi Jinping was anointed as lingxiu, a term not used for any living leader since Mao and his short lived successor Hua Guofeng. Xi’s ideological “thought” has been embedded in the Party’s constitution as its guiding light, and some 20 Chinese universities have announced plans to set up departments to study it. Beijing’s Renmin Daxue, or People’s University was first out of the gate, announcing that it would establish a research centre dedicated to “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” before the ink had dried on the revised constitution.
Political personality cults do not simply spring up with a new Party document. Years of preparation had gone into creating the requisite degree of fervour around Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan—who, as a former army singer, is a veteran of the entertainment business, as was Mao’s fourth wife, the former film actress Jiang Qing. Images of the couple had proliferated in the press, along with fulsome tributes to their relationship. An “impromptu” visit by Xi to the downmarket Qingfeng Steamed Bun restaurant in Beijing precipitated a rush of imitators, keen to order the same pork buns, the same green vegetable dish and the same stewed pork liver and intestines that comprised Xi’s modest meal on that occasion: the receipt, for 160 yuan, was subsequently framed and displayed in an exhibition of China’s major achievements mounted by the Communist…