China's recent revision of its primary and secondary school Chinese language textbooks has received mixed reactions from the public and scholars, with some praising the change as in line with the times, while others fearing that the new textbooks may favor Western values and diminish education in patriotism and revolutionary heritage.
The revision has intrigued more than 30,000 netizens to leave comments under the hashtag "40 percent of the articles have been replaced in new Chinese textbooks" on Sina Weibo, which garnered more than 26 million views as of press time.
The fierce discussion comes after Wang Xuming, president of the Language and Culture Press (LCP) under the Ministry of Education said on May 24 that "the updated school textbooks have replaced 40 percent of the old version's content." He said that 30 percent of the content in the new texts is related to traditional poetry and culture.
But, Wang said there are still some articles praising patriotism and revolutionary traditions, including the essay "The National Flag and the Sun Rise Together," and "The Little Hero Wang Erxiao," the tale of a young boy who helped the Communist-led army defeat Japanese invaders during World War II.
Some sections of the textbooks were replaced as they are anachronistic, like an account of what it is like to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, which was first published in 1980, or inappropriate, like the third chapter of Chinese classic the Water Margin, in which a man punished a rich hooligan by punching him to death.
Despite the addition of traditional content, some readers accused the new textbooks of lacking patriotic education, adding that one of the articles related to the 1937 Nanjing Massacre was cut.
The LCP denied the accusation on May 23, saying the Nanjing article was replaced by a new one on the same topic.
A Guangzhou-based professor, who has been teaching Chinese language and literature for over 15 years, told the Global Times that "some people have misunderstood the priority of Chinese teaching."
"Some people still hold old-fashioned ideas that a Chinese textbook should mostly comprise patriotic ideological content, without noticing that the priority of Chinese teaching is to cultivate humanistic qualities in students," said the professor, who asked for anonymity.
Ideology and patriotism in China's textbooks have been a heated topic for some time, with incumbent Chinese Education Minister Yuan Guiren vowing in January 2015 that the country should never "let textbooks promoting Western values appear in our classes."
In April, an article on cwzg.cn, a news site based in South China's Hainan Province, chastised the People's Education Press (PEP) for excessively praising foreigners in its primary school Chinese textbooks while belittling the Chinese people's image.
Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the Chongqing Committee, believes that Chinese textbooks should avoid favoring the West in textbooks and take responsibility for students' ideological and patriotic education.
"Some textbooks have marginalized the fine revolutionary traditions of the Party, which is inappropriate. It's understandable that the textbooks need to be revised as time goes on, but such good traditions should also be included in textbooks," Su said.
Professor Yao Xinyong from the Chinese Department of Jinan University disagrees, saying that instead of focusing too much on ideology, Chinese textbooks should instead concentrate on improving students' ability to appreciate literature and their moral education.
"The standard of choosing articles for Chinese language textbooks should focus on the quality of the words, and the morality and reasons concealed within them, rather than ideology and the author's nationality," Yao told the Global Times on Monday.
Wang Shi, executive president of the Chinese Culture Promotion Society, told the Global Times that the accusation shows that "some Chinese people are still not confident about their native culture and are always on guard against any foreign culture."