(Bloomberg) — China appears to be requiring foreign law professors to submit their syllabi to ensure they follow a doctrine that President Xi Jinping has pushed throughout the country’s society to strengthen his scrutiny.
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James Zimmerman, a media attorney at law firm Perkins Coie, posted a document on Twitter saying law professors at a Beijing university were required to complete and submit the form to their superiors before classes began.
The “General Objectives” of the document are filled in for the teachers and say: “Guided by Xi Jinping, Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, this course emphasizes every aspect of students’ morality education.”
Read: Rise of ‘Xi Thought’ Shows Long Future for One-Man Government in China
It said students “will gain knowledge and skills,” adding, “In addition, students will understand and put into practice the core values of Chinese socialism, and learn to combine personal fulfillment with social and national development.”
Zimmerman confirmed to Bloomberg News that he posted the document, saying he got it from a foreign law professor in China. He declined to give more information about its origin.
He said the syllabus requirement for the educators was first mentioned in the fall, and “the template I posted was recently circulated to the professors.”
It was not immediately clear whether the requirement also applied to professors in other subjects.
Perkins Coie, headquartered in Seattle, also provides legal services to Bloomberg LP.
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The document underscores how Xi has curtailed academic freedom throughout his decade in power — and how the problem is likely to worsen after he is named president for another five years at the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress starting Sunday.
Xi Thought is an esoteric concept that the ruling Communist Party incorporated into its five-year development blueprint in 2020. People, including diplomats, executives, and writers, are under pressure to incorporate the ideology’s broad, often vague principles into their policies and work.
The urge to intensify the study of Xi Thought reaches even the Chinese youth. In 2021, the party said that children from primary school and the first two years of secondary education should take one lesson a week, based on training materials derived from the ideology.
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The project was central to Xi’s effort to pacify the opposition and elevate his political status to the level of Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic whose effigy appears above Tiananmen Square and is printed on the coin.
The Chinese government has recently tightened the rules for legal education and research. One of the points addressed in a document published by the official Xinhua News Agency on Feb. 26 was the requirements for law schools to use Xi Jinping Thought to guide studies.
In particular, teachers and students were asked to “resolutely oppose and boycott illegitimate Western ideas, including ‘constitutionalism’, ‘separation of powers’ and ‘judicial independence’.”
That echoed demands made by the government in 2013 when the party distributed a list of “seven taboo” topics that should not be discussed in classrooms, including freedom of speech, universal values, civil rights and past mistakes the party has made.
Chinese teachers at some universities are required to submit a list of textbooks they use to teach. In certain cases, they are asked to exchange a textbook imported from abroad for one published domestically, or go through an approval process if there was no alternative.
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