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Sinicization: China Only for the Chinese

We’re on our own now . . . no more silly stories about other worlds. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.[1]

The new buzz about China is sinicization! What’s it all about?

News stories describing the directive to sinicize religion in China proliferate:

Christianity must love the CCP leaders and support socialism. Christians are required to interpret the Bible in accordance with the core values of socialism and get rid of anything that doesn’t contribute to China’s progress . . .[2]

Religion is in the news; however, the powers-that-be are also working very specifically to sinicize not only education—by abolishing in some targeted areas church programs like Sunday school, church school, and college small group studies—but by transforming the culture at large. It is critical for those who love China, especially educators, to consider the three-fold CCP sinicization offensive and its impact on education: pressure on the church, the social credit system, and the enhanced “security” systems, replete with cameras on every corner and in every corner.

As the church in China has matured, many church fellowships have invested in schooling programs for the children of their congregants, providing the option of an education with a Christian or classical Christian worldview. The teaching has generally been done not in the home by two busy, working parents, but in the church building or church-leased facility by paid teachers, usually members of the congregations.

This education supplemented the Sunday school teaching and provided, not only the usual subjects of Chinese language, math, English, and either science or social studies, but also substituted Bible for political studies and sometimes added history, literature, geography, logic, and either Latin or Greek. It provided a broader and richer understanding of world cultures and gave the student a foundation on which to become a knowledgeable and wise participant in today’s society.

Some of these schools,  which are unlicensed and have been allowed to prosper in legal “gray areas,” are being systematically closed down through threats and fines to landlords, demands for exorbitant “back taxes,” restrictions on obtaining curriculum materials, and arrests or restraints on school leaders; infractions can be discovered and penalties enforced through the social credit system.

China’s social credit system is much more invasive than the financial credit systems of other countries, which are used to stabilize and safeguard economies. In China, the CCP is creating a system to rate each citizen’s political trustworthiness.

China's elite State Council explains that social credit will “forge a public opinion environment that trust-keeping is glorious,” warning that the “new system will reward those who report acts of breach of trust . . . [and that] people in certain professions will face particular scrutiny, including teachers, accountants, journalists and medical doctors.[3]

Continuing to rent to or teach at a targeted Christian school would most likely be considered a “breach of trust.”

The impact of the social credit system on education will most likely be much broader than just the pressure on private schools; it also “tracks [the] financial and consumption activities of . . . users . . .”[4] The system would say: if a parent or college student chooses to spend their resources on Shakespeare and Cervantes rather than the Writings of Chairman Mao and Xi’s The Governance of China, they are not studying the core values of socialism. If they buy Nike and Adidas rather than Li Ning and PEAK, they are not contributing to China’s progress. If, under the watchful eye of the camera in the video store, they spend their time in the foreign section and purchase The Sound of Music rather than Journey to the West, they are not experiencing the world through Chinese eyes; they must avoid those “silly stories about other worlds.”

Sinicization attempts to close the Chinese mind to all that is not CCP-approved and to once again shut the window on the world. C.S. Lewis’ dwarves in The Last Battle refused to be freed. “’They will not let us help them,’ Aslan explained. ‘They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own mind, yet they are in that prison, and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.’”[5] Does the sinicization effort hide a fear on the part of the CCP that they are being “taken in” by all that is Western and that they are losing control of the hearts and minds of their youth? If teachers are required to adopt that perspective in government schools, it won’t take long to convince primary and middle school students that Mickey Mouse and Don Quixote are capitalist devils.

Schools in many western countries are gradually adding elements of Chinese science and math, language, literature, and culture to their curriculums; even more such programs need to be included to equip students from the West for the globalized 21st century.  Lewis’ self-imprisoned dwarves believed that they were “on their own,” but none of us are on our own; instituting isolationism in today’s world would result in sad stories not silly ones. What next steps might be taken to prevent the imprisonment of brilliant young minds in China and keep them free to think and study all that education has to offer?

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BJ Arthur

BJ Arthur (pseudonym) has lived in China for many years and was in Beijing in June 1989.View Full Bio

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