Students in Red Army uniforms carry backpacks with a portrait of Chairman Mao and “Serve the People” printed on them.

At the symposium for ideological and political theory teachers held on March 18 in Beijing, President Xi Jinping stressed the necessity to cultivate generations of talents that will support the CCP leadership and the Chinese Socialist system. This must start with schools and children, he said.

On June 11, the Education Bureau of Jiujiang city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, issued a notice that requires schools to introduce a “Red Culture” course in kindergartens’ curricula, with the ultimate goal of laying the foundation for cultivating socialist successors by introducing pre-schoolers (aged 3 to 6) to the “red spirit” and inspiring “red emotions.”

The classes should reflect the essence of Xi Jinping’s series of speeches on the topic. Teachers are required to make full use of social resources to guide young children in perceiving and experiencing communist culture in life, introduced through play-based activities to sow the seeds of “red genes” in their young minds.

A document issued by the Education Bureau of Jiujiang city requires to add classes on “Red Culture” in kindergartens.

In July, Jiujiang, Nanchang, and other cities in Jiangxi organized a “revolutionary thought” summer camp for more than 200 primary and middle school students at one of the so-called “revolutionary bases” in Jinggangshan – a county-level city bordering Hunan Province, considered as the “cradle of the Chinese revolution.” A base for the Chinese Communists and the Red Army in the 1920s, Jinggangshan has been turned into an activity centre providing various training courses that glorify China’s proletarian revolution.

According to one of the students who was at the camp, instructors told them stories about the heroics of Chairman Mao and other revolutionary leaders, calling them “very brave” and commanding children “to always have Chairman Mao in their hearts.”

As Bitter Winter has previously reported, primary schools throughout Jiangxi had been intensifying patriotic education activities on orders from the educational authorities since the beginning of the year.

The CCP is also intensifying efforts to restrict and stifle children’s religious faith. According to a believer from Wuning county under the jurisdiction of Jiujiang city, in May, the county government set up a “Community Service Station for Young Children” near a Three-Self church and recruited local Party members and teachers to volunteer in carrying out indoctrination-style education on children.

In July, one of the volunteers on watch noticed a seven-year-old boy entering the church and, against the boy’s and his parents’ wishes, took him to the community service station for “education.” Another child, a four-year-old, was also sent to the station that day.

When children are taken to the community service station, their ID information is registered. Inside are numerous displays with “red” educational propaganda, bookshelves are also filled with books and magazines promoting CCP ideology. Clearly, the government spares no effort in replacing children’s religious awareness with atheist thought.

Children forced to “dedicate lives to the motherland”

Indoctrination with communist propaganda has become the most crucial part of the curriculum at schools across the country, permeating all teaching topics and classes.

In late June, the headteacher of a primary school in Binzhou city in the eastern province of Shandong told students that “religion is superstition” and they should stay away from it; instead, they should believe in the Party and advocate science. The teacher also encouraged students to report believers to the police proactively. “We must dedicate our lives to the motherland,” the teacher instructed.

In July, when a primary school student from Shangqiu city in the central province of Henan returned home for the summer break, his mother gave him a list of summer-reading books that the teacher had posted on the parent’s group in WeChat, a popular messaging platform in China. From the list of 13 books about the birth of Chinese Communism, heroism of revolutionary leaders, the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949), and alike, students had to choose two to read during the summer. Each student was also instructed to prepare book-based posters after reading.

 “It’s frustrating to read those books, but not reading them isn’t an option. If I don’t finish reading them, I won’t be able to prepare my handmade posters, and then the headteacher won’t allow me to enrol for the next semester,” the boy said with distress in his voice as he flipped through the nearly 600-page-long Red Crag – a 1961 novel about underground communists fighting against authorities during the Chinese Civil War.

 “Children haven’t had any time to play at all during this summer break. The school requires them to read ‘red’ books and watch ‘red’ movies. The teacher even ordered them to send the titles of movies that they had watched,” the boy’s mother said with a look of helplessness. 

Tang Zhe is a correspondent for Bitter Winter, from which this article has been republished with permission. He uses a pseudonym for security reasons.