MOSCOW - Barack Obama’s re-election has allowed many people in Moscow to sigh with relief: The Cold War really is over. And that is the most important take-away from the Russian capital after the 2012 presidential election in the United States.
The Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, had surprised everyone during the campaign by citing Russia as America's No.1 geopolitical opponent. So his defeat means the Kremlin can stop worrying about such caveman-like announcements. Indeed, Russia can be assured that Romney, who is 65 years old, will not be running in the next U.S. elections.
Does Obama’s re-election mean that Moscow and Washington have a second chance at a reset? The answer is obvious: yes, of course. However, the fact that history is giving these two former foes a second chance does not necessarily mean that the opportunity won't be wasted.
In the wake of the U.S. election, there is a wave a new expectations that every new term ushers in. It is a good time for the governments in both countries to work past their previous mistakes. Both administrations should figure out the reason why towards the end of the presidential elections in the United States the ‘reset’ with Russia morphed from a promising foreign relations project into the subject of increasing criticism and open derision from hawks in both Moscow and Washington.
It’s not possible to build something with your right hand and destroy it with your left. Moscow cannot declare its commitment to a strategic partnership with the United States while at the same time fanning the flames of anti-Americanism, which has returned recently in the Russian media and to the lips of Russian officials after a brief historical respite.
That should be the lesson for Moscow from Obama’s first term. It is not possible to build a serious partnership with someone whom you don’t trust or whom you are constantly flipping off behind his back.
Let's fix it
But the Obama administration, which offered Moscow the reset button, should also avoid repeating the same mistakes. Moscow’s increasing annoyance with the White House is not without merit. Once again, the White House did not consult with Moscow about the European missile shield nor the conflict in Syria. At the same time, after Russia agreed not to use its veto power against the the United Nations Security Council vote on Libya, the U.S. went ahead and overthrew the Libyan regime.
It has to be said that in spite of Obama’s polite rhetoric regarding Moscow, his actions as President have often aggravated the anti-Americanism that we see in Russia today.
Most importantly, Washington has to understand that President Vladimir Putin will never agree to be a junior or subordinate partner to the United States. A real partnership built over the course of Obama’s second term must be a partnership between equals.
Lastly, it is important that both sides stop blaming each other for the turbulence in the relationship. Saying “You break it, you fix it” does not work in today’s world. The second chance at a reset will not be wasted only if both parties are able to sit down at the negotiating table and find the courage to say, “If we break it, we both fix it.”
'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.
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.
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."
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