XI 101

Chinese universities are falling over themselves to teach “Xi Jinping Thought”

Image: EPA-EFE/How Hwee Young
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Around 20 Chinese universities have set up research centers focused on the teaching of “Xi Jinping Thought,” shortly after the Chinese president enshrined his name and doctrine in the Communist Party’s constitution.

Xi first introduced his theory—“Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”—on Oct. 18, when he opened the twice-a-decade 19th party congress with a three-hour speech. At the end of the weeklong session that also marked the start of his second term, Xi’s ideology, along with his name, were written into the party constitution as part of the party’s “guide to action.” Only one Chinese leader, modern China’s founding father Mao Zedong, has enjoyed the same treatment while still in power. 

China is now in overdrive to implement Xi Jinping Thought at all levels of local government, party organs, military units, state-owned enterprises, and universities. At least 20 universities and other state-controlled research institutions across the country have created departments dedicated to Xi Jinping Thought, according to a roundup of such announcements from news portal Sina (link in Chinese).

The elite Renmin University in Beijing was the first to set up its own Xi-related department, just one day after the congress concluded. A school official said that the newly established research center will “help universities around the country incorporate Xi Thought into their textbooks and introduce it to their classrooms, as well as into students’ minds.”

What exactly is Xi Jinping Thought? As Quartz has written, it is a broad and vague concept that Xi explained in 14 parts, covering everything from party discipline to state security to economic reform. The new era appears to refer to China’s next challenge of turning itself into a fully developed nation, and one that has increasing sway in international affairs. By declaring the start of a new era, Xi also reinforced the idea that he belongs to the same league as Mao and reformer Deng Xiaoping, and is above his two immediate predecessors, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin. 

There are already dozens of research centers in Chinese universities dedicated to Marxist thought and the theories of Mao and Deng. It seems only a matter of time that Xi-related centers will outnumber those.