China has released new “morality” guidelines for its citizens on everything from civic education and how parents should teach their children to rubbish sorting and the appropriate etiquette for raising the national flag.
The “Outline for the Implementation of the Moral Construction of Citizens in the New Era” calls on Chinese citizens to be honest and polite, to be “civilised” when dining, travelling, or watching a sports competition, and “defend China’s honour” while abroad.
The guidelines, focusing heavily on promoting patriotism, also called for the formulation of “national etiquette” for things such as singing the national anthem, raising the national flag, or ceremonies for when one joins the ruling Chinese communist party (CCP).
Such etiquette should “enhance people’s attitude toward the party and country and organise a collective sense of identity and belonging”, according to the document, released by the party’s central committee and the state council. It also called for citizens to “carry forward the spirit of Lei Feng”, a former soldier who has been heavily used in party propaganda campaigns since the 1960s.
Carl Minzner, China scholar and professor of law at Fordham Law School in New York, said, “The general goal of these guidelines is to define ‘good’ behaviour, and that includes everything from the ethical lessons you might want your children to internalise, from reading Peppa Pig stories to more political concepts of civic virtue – such as how citizens should think of their relationship with respect to their leaders.”
Released on Sunday ahead of a major leadership meeting, the Fourth Plenum, taking place in Beijing, the guidelines underline Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s focus at the meeting – shoring up political legitimacy during a time when Beijing faces severe challenges, from protests in Hong Kong to a slowing economy and a long trade war with the US.
“Under the background of profound changes in the international and domestic situation and profound changes in China’s economic and social development … policies and regulations, and social governance are still not enough” the document says in its introduction. “There are still many problems.”
Most important among the guidelines is for citizens to treat Xi Jinping Thought as the “core” of their civic moral compass. In contrast to a previous version, first released in 2001, several references to other leaders in the country’s history, from Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping have been omitted.
Experts say the document is a sign that propaganda work will be ramped up, with a focus on the CCP version of Chinese traditions, and a focus on ethics and culture.
“While Beijing still adheres to the revolutionary Marxist faith, it is steadily pivoting back to its own past in search of an ideological basis to ground its rule and inspire its citizens,” said Minzner.