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Xi Jinping and Shanghai Officials Fight over Ancient Chinese Poems

On Chinese media, Xi Jinping and Shanghai officials had an open fight on the issue of whether to include Ancient Chinese poems in elementary school textbooks. People’s Daily, Xinhua, and Jiefang Daily were all involved.

On September 9, People’s Daily published a commentary by an author whose name was "Commentator of the Party’s Newspaper," stating that Xi made a statement that "he is very much against removing classic ancient poems and articles from students’ textbooks." "To see this form of ‘de-Sinicization’ (removing Chinese factors and culture) is very sad. We should put these classics into student’s heads to form the genes of Chinese culture." The commentary further pointed out that Xi’s criticism was targeting Shanghai, which recently conducted text book reform and removed all ancient poems from the elementary school’s first grade textbooks.

The Beijing local government responded that they will increase the number of ancient poems in the first grade textbooks from 8 to 22 and that, during the years of elementary school, students will learn over 100 ancient poems.

However, Jiefang Daily, the Shanghai government’s official media, provided a different response on an official microblog: "What benefit does it bring to tradition to add a dozen poems over a night? Anyone who understands a little bit of ‘tradition’ knows what ‘揠苗助长’ (trying to help shoots grow by pulling them up – also spoils things by pushing) means and also what ‘过犹不及’ (going too far is as bad as not going far enough) means. Tradition does not need a coarse tribute, nor can education ignore the natural law. Progress gradually; be gentle and honest. If you have extra energy then start to learn more literature and don’t forget: this is the tradition." The blog stayed on the site for a day before it was removed.

Xi fought back from the sky. According to Xinhua, on his trip to Tajikistan on September 11, Xi spoke from his plane while flying at 10,000-meters high, "Classic ancient poems and articles are part of the Chinese nation’s blood and our genes. … Chinese classes [in school] should teach classic ancient poems and pass on the Chinese tradition."

On September 14, Xinhua reported that during Xi Jinping’s visit to the Maldives, Xi published an article in his name in the local newspaper, Today’s Evening, and on the website for Sun Online. The article, titled "True Friend, Partner in Development" quoted two Chinese ancient poems.

[Editor’s note: As Xi and Wang Qishan have continued their anti-corruption campaign, a Central Commission for Discipline Inspection team has been sent to Shanghai to gather public reports on Shanghai official’s corruption cases. The team has been stationed in Shanghai for about two months.]

[1] People’s Daily Online BBS, September 10, 2014
[2] DWNews Online, September 11, 2014
[3] Xinhua, September 11, 2014
[4] Xinhua, September 14, 2014