Geopolitics

Crimean Parliament Seized, More Erdogan Audio, Planet Bonanza

The Russian flag over the Crimean Parliament in Ukraine
The Russian flag over the Crimean Parliament in Ukraine

GUNMEN SEIZE CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT
An armed group seized parliament and another government building in Ukraine’s region of Crimea early this morning and raised the Russian flag, sending the Ukrainian security forces on alert. At least two people have died and some 30 people have been injured since pro-EU and pro-Russian protesters began clashing in Crimea Wednesday, Kyiv Post reports.

  • Interim President Turchynov warned Moscow that any movement of the Russian fleet stationed in the Black Sea would be interpreted as a “military aggression,” adding that Ukraine would “defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Itar-Tass reports. For more about the historical importance of Crimea, read this interesting RT piece.

  • As the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev is gathering to name a new, pro-Western government, ousted president Viktor Yanukovych appeared in front of Russian media to tell Ukrainians that he’s still the president and that decisions by the Parliament are illegitimate, RT reports. Yanukovych, who is wanted for “mass murder” and had been missing since Sunday, asked Russia to ensure his personal safety “against the actions of extremists.” The Russian authorities have accepted his request.

SCORES DEAD IN SYRIAN ARMY AMBUSH
The Syrian army killed more than 175 Islamist fighters in an ambush yesterday on the rebel-held outskirts of Damascus. According to state news agency Sana, fighters of Saudi, Qatari and Chechen nationalities were among the dead. According to Reuters, the ambush is “a significant advance for President Bashar al-Assad's efforts to cement his hold of the capital and surrounding roads.”

CAR BOMB IN SOMALIA’S CAPITAL
At least seven people were killed in the Somali capital of Mogadishu after a car bomb exploded near a cafe popular among security and intelligence officials, The Daily Nation reports police sources as saying. Although nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the blast, al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shebaab has been involved in similar recent attacks around the capital.

AMNESTY INT’L ACCUSES ISRAEL OF WAR CRIMES
In a report published today, Amnesty International accuses Israel of war crimes against Palestinian civilians, describing “mounting bloodshed and human rights abuses” in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. “The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank — and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators — suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy,” the organization writes. Read more here.

This comes amid AFP reports that the Palestinian chief negotiator announced this morning he rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s push for nine-month-long negotiations with Israel to continue after the April deadline, as long as Israel “continues to disregard international law.”

BY THE NUMBERS
Signed copies of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf go up for auction today. Bidding is set to begin at $20,000.

VERBATIM
A second damning audio recording of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, this time asking his son to hold out for more money on a business deal, was published Wednesday on YouTube. Read what he had to say.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD


PLANET BONANZA
NASA’s Kepler mission has found 715 new exoplanets that orbit around 305 different stars. Among them, four are in the “habitable zone” of their sun, raising hopes that a planet with liquid water can be found. Read more here.

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Society

Chinese Students Now Required To Learn To Think Like Xi Jinping

'Xi Jinping Thought' ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.


Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?

The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

photo of books on a book shelf

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
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