10,000 Beijing Teen-Agers Learn Party Line or Else
More than 10,000 Beijing teen-agers are giving up their Saturday afternoons, not really through choice, to learn about the Communist Party in political study groups at high schools and universities.
Official media hail the groups as proof of revived interest in ideology among youngsters.
In fact, many of the students are “volunteered” by their schools or youth organizations. Others sign up because showing the right political attitudes can be a shortcut to a leading university or a good job.
Classes have different names--spare-time Communist Party school, Marxism-Leninism study group, communism study group--but share the goal of teaching students to love the party and fight “bourgeois liberalism,” or Western ideas.
Chinese authorities are trying to recapture a generation that has harbored deep resentment of the party since the harsh military suppression of the democracy movement a year ago.
Young people speak scornfully of the government in private, but go along with the ideological campaign in order to avoid trouble.
This is the official story: Young Chinese were shaken by last year’s movement, which started among college students in Beijing and spread quickly to other cities. Politically immature students did not fully understand communism or China’s national conditions and became pawns of “foreign hostile forces.”
A Beijing high school student chosen from thousands of applicants for a 14-week course on the Communist Party was quoted as saying: “We understand very little about the party. I think this is closely related to why we had the turmoil” last year.
According to the weekly Beijing Review, one college student said “he knew many of the arguments were wrong” during the pro-democracy movement, felt it “difficult to produce a correct explanation” and that “only by studying Marxism-Leninism could he distinguish right from wrong.”
At Fudan University in Shanghai, one of the most noted liberal arts schools, philosophy major Wang Haifeng and seven classmates started a Marxist philosophy study group in September. Official reports say 57 more groups have been started at Fudan since, involving more than 600 students.
On its front page in April, China Youth News published an appeal from Wang and his seven friends that said: “We students have great need to study Marxist philosophy . . . to enhance our political quality and theoretical level. Studying Marxism will help us establish a correct world view and outlook on life.”
Last fall, more than 2,000 students were said to be studying in the Communist Party school at Qinghua University in Beijing, China’s foremost technical institution.
Xinhua, the official news agency, said that the students were so enthusiastic the university library could not meet the demand for such works as Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” and “The Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung.”
The Communist Youth League in Beijing has started similar classes for high school students. At Beijing’s No. 4 Middle School, more than 800 students fill the auditorium each Saturday afternoon for lectures by college professors and officials of the Youth League Committee.
Zhou Shiliang, a professor at the Youth’s College of Political Science run by the Communist Youth League, lectured for two hours recently on the meaning and history of communism.
Each week’s lectures are taped and shown to nearly 10,000 high school students at other party schools in Beijing.
Four students from each Beijing high school attended on the day Zhou spoke. Most listened attentively, but a few boys in warm-up suits tapped their feet impatiently when an enticing spring breeze entered through the open auditorium doors. One girl was seen reading a tattered novel hidden by her notebook.
Zhou urged students to give up selfish ambitions and devote their lives to realizing communism in China. He likened the task to climbing a mountain and declared, “If you want to be part of the work of communism, you must be prepared spiritually and mentally.”
At one point in his exhortation, Zhou roared at the students: “Are you for protecting private ownership and exploitation or for wiping out private ownership and wiping out exploitation?”
Almost inaudibly, his listeners muttered the correct response.