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Democratization during the Post Mao era. An Analysis of Citizenship Education in Chinese Universities

Bai, Jing Kun Bai; (2019) Democratization during the Post Mao era. An Analysis of Citizenship Education in Chinese Universities. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This study explores whether citizenship education in Chinese higher education has developed traces of a democratic political culture during the post Mao. Since China instituted reforms from 1978, it has made great achievements in terms of economy and education. These achievements are known in the literature to facilitate democratization, but China remains an authoritarian regime. Studies regarding China’s democratisation show highly contrasting views. Scholars suggest that China has shown inklings of democracy as part of a third wave of global democratisation; some claim that democratization has emerged with characteristics of East Asian values; others consider that the China has not yet developed democracy. I analysed themes of the officially promoted ideologies, definitions of the regime, and political reforms with particular relevance to the shaping of values, identity and citizenship contained within 39 university textbooks of the compulsory “Politics” curriculum from 1978 to 2018, and official political education documents, plus fieldwork undertaken at 5 Chinese universities. This study identifies how political education in Chinese higher education has changed since 1978, especially in terms of the periodization and portrayal of democracy. The study suggests fluctuating developments in political education in higher education during three broad periods during the post Mao era. Each period has distinct features. The first period is the 85 Program reforms during the 1980s when the Chinese government adjusted the relationship between developing the economy and learning in Chinese higher education. Cultivating higher level technicians and skilful scientists for the needs of economic development became the primary task of Chinese higher education. The second period is the “98 Program Reform” from the early 1990s to 2003 during which the Chinese government developed a clear policy of marketization of Chinese higher education with firm political control. The third period is “the 05 Program Reforms” which started from 2003. The curriculum for political education in higher education was completely and systemically centralized, and patriotic education which had begun in 1990 developed into Chinese nationalism. Notably, after, Xi Jin-ping became the leader of the CCP in 2013, Xiism has led China towards increasing militarism, authoritarianism and xenophobic nationalism. These features of political education at university level may suggest the start of a new era. The study also demonstrates a range of contradictory relationships between higher education and democratisation. The Chinese government firmly controls political education in order to train university students to become the kinds of citizens the CCP requires. However, Chinese intellectuals, textbook authors and university students have potential to make contributions to democratisation when the Chinese regime less control universities. In this study, I speculatively propose that China has developed a Chinese version of socialist democracy, and that democratisation has fluctuated at the level of official discourse during the post Mao era. Economic development, Chinese culture and Marxist-Leninist ideology have shaped processes of democratisation. This unique combination has resulted in a form of illiberal democracy in China known as democratic centralism, wherein elections are held at different levels, and there are multiple participants in the regime, but not all people have equal rights or life chances, and top-down political reforms control democratic development.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Democratization during the Post Mao era. An Analysis of Citizenship Education in Chinese Universities
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Education, Practice and Society
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10081459
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