Language students helped to spread ‘Xi thought’ beyond China

New textbook series may be seen as move to create a cadre of evangelists across international borders

September 11, 2022
Xi Jinping face plates
Source: iStock

A new textbook series for students studying foreign languages in China claims to help them “internalise” president Xi Jinping’s ideology, in what may be seen as a move to create a cadre of evangelists who can make the case for the Communist Party overseas.

Understanding Contemporary China, published by Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, consists of 43 volumes in 10 languages, including English, Russian, German, French, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese and, to be published next year, Korean, for undergraduate and postgraduate students studying these languages.

The project was supported by China’s National Social Science Foundation and led by Beijing Foreign Studies University. Other leading institutions, including Peking University, have contributed to the project.

According to its introductory website, this series aims to support multi-language versions of Mr Xi’s The Governance of China – a four-volume collection of his speeches and writings – to “enter universities, enter textbooks, enter classes”.

The website outlines one of the course objectives as “to help students understand theories through reading the original text by combining value, knowledge and competence…and further enhance political, ideological, theoretical and emotional recognition of the leadership of the Communist Party of China and socialism with Chinese characteristics”.

Each version in a foreign language covers tutorials in reading and writing, public speaking, translation and interpretation.

Themed chapters of the reading and writing textbook, for example, are interspersed with speeches or quotes of Mr Xi’s thought on the mission of Chinese youth, the need for a new “Long March”, China’s achievements in fighting against poverty and working with the global community.

Each chapter ends with a course task of “telling China’s story to the world”, such as, “Write an essay analysing a particular case that demonstrates how China’s whole-process people’s democracy works,” or “Write an essay illustrating a viewpoint from China’s epic journey from poverty to prosperity.”

The publication represents a shift in teaching strategy: often students learning foreign languages study texts focusing on their country of interest, whereas here the intention is to help students explain China’s position internationally.

Aside from foreign-language versions, there is a Chinese version of the textbook series designed for international students studying Chinese.

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