Xi Jinping on the Guiding Role of Teachers: Unobtrusive and Imperceptible Moral Influence

Xinhua, via sina.com, January 4, 2012

The CCP’s Central Committee Organization Department, the CCP Propaganda Department, and the CCP’s party committee at the Ministry of Education held their twentieth national meeting on party development work at institutions of higher education. Member of the CCP Central Committee’s Politbureau Standing Committee, secretary of the CCP’s Central Committee Secretariat, and State Vice Chairman Xi Jinping met with delegates and gave a speech. He emphasized that higher education is an important field [or garden] for the education and training of young talents, and an important front for arming the young with socialist core values and ideology. The development of party work at institutions of higher education should closely surround the training of a reliable generation of successors, in correspondence with the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics as a fundamental task. For the building of high-quality socialist universities which are able to train students, strong ideological, political and organizational guarantees needed to be provided [by the party].


Xi Jinping pointed out that teachers*) are the engineers of the human spirit, and guides for growing-up students. [Teachers’] ideological and political qualities and noble morality had a strong influence on young students, and played a most important role in ideological dissemination. This required our teachers to persist in imparting knowledge and teaching people with an attitude of high social responsibility, to be worthy of the name of teacher [or to be a model of virtue for others], and to unobtrusively and imperceptibly influence the students with good ideological and moral qualities. Young teachers were an important force within the institutions of higher education, as they communicated and interacted with students more frequently, and thus had a strong influence on students. To strengthen the young teaching staff’s ideological and political development was an important task for the party. The deepening of meticulous ideological guidance of young teaching staff, increased development of party members among them, and the perfection of party membership structures at institutions of higher education needed to be carried out well.


Xi Jinping emphasized that our party will hold its 18th National Congress this year, which was a great event in the political life of the entire party, and the entire nation with all its nationalities and people. [Those in the development of party development] at institutions of higher education needed to highlight and welcome the great victory of the 18th National Congress, and study, propagate and put into effect the 18th National Congress’ spirit, perform still better as party commissions, as  the leading core at institutions of higher education, and party organizations on all levels needed to function as bastions, and broaden their role as pioneering models.


Activities of excellence needed to be developed further, the broadening of party members’ role in the implementation of the educational policies be promoted and widened, internal development be upheld, learning management comprehensively be raised further, excellence be brought into the practice of self-strengthening, and excellence activities become a regularity.  Practical and powerful measures needed to be taken to maintain harmony and stability at institutions of higher education, daily management be strengthened, and a good atmosphere be created for the victorious 18th National Party Congress.


Politbureau member, Central Committee Secretariat secretary, and Central Propaganda director Liu Yunshan, Politbureau member and state councillor Liu Yandong, Politbureau member, Central Committee Secretariat secretary, and central organization department director Li Yuanchao attended the meeting.


According to the Xinhua article, Liu Yandong summarized or reviewed the ideological and political education work at institutions of higher education during the years after (last) 17th National Party Congress, and emphasized the need to deeply understand the new situations and tasks party work there was facing. She also made the usual references to using the latest achievements of Marxism to arm mentality (or brains), and repeated Xi Jinping’s definition of training of a reliable generation of successors, in correspondence with the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics. She added some remarks about the importance of patriotism and national pride.

Li Yuanchao presided over the meeting.


*) I’ve chosen the term teachers as the (probably) most universal translation of 教师. The term may refer to fully-grown professors just as well, in the context of Xi’s speech.



» The Newest Angry Professor, June 2, 2011


» Vice President orders Thought Control, Telegraph, Jan 5, 2012


15 Responses to “Xi Jinping on the Guiding Role of Teachers: Unobtrusive and Imperceptible Moral Influence”

  1. Engineers of the human spirit. Love it.


  2. If you want to to dis Xi Jinping or Jia Qinglin, quote them.


  3. No JR. I was thinking about that key quote by Foucault from his Discipline and Punish.

    Have you read this seminal text? It was published in France about 35 yrs ago.

    You are too caught up in your own cocoon. Every significant web lord has his own cross to bear.

    (Nonetheless, I could not live without your translations.)

    I have quoted Foucault many times on this engineering point on a number of sites, including CD.

    Furthermore, I am not going to pull that pesky book from my shelf to re-make my point.
    Live with it.


  4. Readers’ Info: If you are interested in reading Foucault‘s Discipline and Punish, but are too lazy to go to the library, you can download an English translation of it here, while the online offer lasts

    KT and I discussed Foucault’s ideas here, previously, but only he has read it so far..

    KT: If every significant web lord has his own cross to bear, I’m no significant web lord. I’m bearing my cross elsewhere, but right here, I’m blogging, because it’s fun. If there’s a cocoon around me, the commenting threads are there to open that cocoon.

    Obviously, I’m tending to a limited set of gardens myself here, and currently, it’s the season for Chinese soft power and public diplomacy, and the central committee’s cultural decision as one of the declared carriers of that concept.

    Please advise if the online Discipline and Punish version I linked to in the first para is the one you refer to.


  5. Setting born crosses aside for the moment, there is nothing particularly unique about a political figure expressing this kind of sentiment (or waxing sentimental) about the role of teachers. However, the choice of words (工程师; 引路人和指导者) is interesting in the Chinese context. First, the ascent of “red engineers” into leadership positions has been well chronicled by Joel Andreas. The word gives some insight into the dominant scientistic view of the educational process. On the other hand, guide and coach (other translations are possible) resonates with the current thrust in pedagogical theory/policy that stresses the teacher as a guide rather than commander.

    In general, I agree with KT that Foucault does have something to tell us in all of this. However, Foucault was talking about the less than sanguine nature of educational processes in the liberalization of Western societies. What’s interesting about Foucault’s work is that he reveals the violence inherent in otherwise soft methods. My sense is that such masking isn’t deemed necessary in a revolutionary society (violence is productive in a positive sense), though my own research suggests that a kind of liberalization is taking place in education in China. Liberalization always means putting in place layers of misrecognition.


  6. Lorin, I’m sure that Foucault has something to say about what I’d call a refinement of repressive methods (my words for violence inherent in otherwise soft methods). However, that is the level of describing what is there, and the implications of what you see. In a previous discussion, I pointed out that in my view, many Chinese scholars would probably disagree with Foucault’s description of the law as an extension of the sovereign’s “body”, and think of it rather as a “family matter”. In that light, I would put a question mark to your suggestion that Liberalization always means putting in place layers of misrecognition.. It’s rather putting things in place anew, from time to time or continuously, according to what is your latest understanding of a situation. Mainly those, I might add, who want to question the political system, or expand the boundaries of their research, would turn to Foucault, or to Zhuang Zhou, or to Confucianism.

    You wrote your research suggests that a kind of liberalization is taking place in education in China. Have you posted on your blog about this, or online elsewhere?

    I don’t want to do injustice to Foucault, but I think his Discipline and Punish might be quite acceptable in Chinese academia, even semi-official academia, for describing what he sees, not what he wants.

    Either way, neither concepts like Foucault’s, nor economic trends, will comprehensively describe the individual’s attitude vs. either structural legislative, judicial or executive violence in China, or in any other country, KT. What seems to be missing in all these approaches – in my view -, is individual and collective volition. That’s also why I think that I have to avoid insinuations that this was something Foucault wouldn’t care about – he does. All along his essay, he keeps quoting people’s opposition against penal systems as they evolved through the centuries, and when it comes to members of the elites, it is indeed for – as I understand it, declaredly – humanitiarian reasons after all. Foucaulot only shifts the focus on what are desired and undesired aspects of punishment, from the state’s or the elites’ perspective.

    While Foucault certainly has something to tell me, too – I have only finished half of the English translation so far -, I see no need, and no way, actually, to limit my criteria to his essay when judging what Xi Jinping had to say about the role of a teacher. According to Xi’s speech, only the CCP’s volition must count, as the only source of knowledge and virtue to impart. Dispassionate approaches or reactions to that are certainly alright, but I can needn’t comment dispassionately myself.


  7. I’m not sure about the reception of Foucault amongst Chinese scholars, although I suspect given its radical implications, it might be similar to the American uptake which somehow manages to twist it into a call to individualism. I would take your point about them disagreeing with rule of the sovereign, with the exception that those more attached to a Leninist conception of the party (or even a Confucian conception) might not mind the idea so much.

    As to my comment on liberalization, I’m drawing attention to Foucault’s concern with the birth of the liberal state, hence “liberalization.” He was concerned with how one form of governance superseded another–the people replaced the sovereign or became the sovereign. On misrecognition (mesconnaissance)/a kind of liberalization taking place, what I’m thinking of here is the way in which Chinese people (when asked to think about it) tend not to be naive about the oppressive or unfair nature of their society. The presence of liberal or progressive educational discourses in China is nothing new (Dewey was there long ago), but in my research, I was quite surprised at the extent to which Chinese parents talk about the education of their children in familiar ways: “I want my child to have a better life, to have a balanced education, to be able to make their own choices so that they will be happy.” Now, I don’t want to confuse expressions of desire with actions, but there is, I’d say, a hint of misrecognition of the kind I’m suggesting in such expressions. At any rate, it will be interesting to see if a second layer of misrecognition (misrecognition of misrecognition) develops over time. No, I haven’t written/blogged yet as the research/writing is in progress!


  8. Thanks JR and Lorin.

    Lost me guys, and my copy of D & P is three decades old and covered with a lot of different types of ink.

    I mainly use the bald dead one to think about the machinery /technologies of surveillance. Of which the PRC is providing the global example: ” the soul is the prison of the body” ,and since I am going off line for good soon, I won’t provide some really neat examples I read this morning during my google news search.

    Serious academia and blogging are both good things. However, attempted cross-overs mostly end up in disaster, bruised egos and sulky attitudes.



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