Communist Party officials in Inner Mongolia lambasted for poor handling of education reform

William Zheng
·3-min read

The Communist Party chief of Inner Mongolia has berated officials in a northern district of the region for their poor handling of a recent education reform that sparked a mass protest.

Students staged walkouts and parents pulled their children out of school in opposition to a plan to teach key subjects in Mandarin Chinese rather than their local language.

At a meeting in Xilin Gol league on Monday, Shi Taifeng, the region’s party secretary, told the cadres to reflect on their errors, the official Inner Mongolia Daily newspaper reported.

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Schools in Inner Mongolia have been told they must teach language and literature, morality and law, and history in Mandarin. Photo: EPA-EFE
Schools in Inner Mongolia have been told they must teach language and literature, morality and law, and history in Mandarin. Photo: EPA-EFE

[We] are still far from meeting our goal of holding a high quality ‘democratic life meeting’ and the Communist Party Committee [of Xilin Gol] must do more to organise [party members] to study harder and dig deeper into the problems,” he was quoted as saying.

“Both leading cadres and individuals should revise and review the self-reflection materials … and have a more accurate understanding of the problems so [we] can improve our ability to diagnose and resolve future problems,” he said.

“We had a major problem this time in our promotion of the use of the national curriculum and the deep-rooted cause behind it is because we have strayed from our ethnic minority works and failed to forge a strong sense of community for the Chinese nation.”

Shi Taifeng is the Communist Party secretary of Inner Mongolia. Photo: Handout
Shi Taifeng is the Communist Party secretary of Inner Mongolia. Photo: Handout

Shi’s comments were followed by a lengthy commentary in People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, on Wednesday in which Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, China’s top lawmaking body, said party officials must “resolutely, comprehensively and unconditionally” implement Beijing’s language policy.

The promotion of Mandarin Chinese was crucial in “managing ethnic affairs, enhancing national unity and safeguarding national security”, he said.

Inner Mongolia doubles down on China’s plan to teach key subjects in Mandarin despite protests

All schools in Inner Mongolia have been told they must teach language and literature, morality and law, and history in Mandarin using state-compiled textbooks by 2022.

A Beijing-based ethnic affairs researcher, who asked not to be named, said he expected “heads would roll” over the summer protests.

“There is no room for bargaining and Beijing is firm on this,” the person said. “If Tibet and Xinjiang can do it, there is no reason why Inner Mongolia should be an exception.”

Similar rules on the language used in classrooms have already been implemented in Tibet and Xinjiang.

“Judging from Shi’s criticism, some [cadres] could face the axe,” the researcher said.

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Beijing has traditionally allowed schools in areas that have large populations of minority groups, like Mongols, Uygurs, Tibetans, Kazakhs or Koreans, to teach pupils in their native language. But in August, the education department in Inner Mongolia issued a transition order requiring all students to study the three specified subjects in Mandarin.

Allen Carlson, an associate professor at Cornell University’s government department, said the policy change did nothing to enhance Beijing’s rule in Inner Mongolia and might cause greater resentment among minority groups.

“It may deepen the resentment and underscore divisions between Han Chinese and non-Han peoples,” he said. “It is unlikely to change the hearts and minds of Tibetans, Uygurs and Mongols.”

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