“Ideological and political work is relatively weak, and the implementation of ideological systems is not strong enough,” said a report by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), criticising the party committees at each university and urging them to “take responsibility” for their shortcomings.
The assessment comes after teams of CCDI inspectors were dispatched to 29 universities earlier this year with the remit of “upholding the party’s leadership and party-building” and to root out “political bias”.
Part of the story here has to do with ideology. Xi publicly stressed in December that universities ought to be transformed into “strongholds of the party’s leadership”, and that Marxist orthodoxy ought to be strictly enforced. His statement, however, was widely taken as merely a reiteration of longstanding Party policy. Professors deemed to be spreading “Western values” have in several cases been silenced or removed in the past few years.
The fact that the CCDI, an anti-corruption body, is involved is a notable development, and suggests that this is less about ideas and more about loyalty—rooting out “political bias” in China’s universities has traditionally been the role of the Education Ministry. More than likely, then, this a power play by CCDI’s fearsome director Wang Qishan, Xi’s chief hatchet man, ahead of this autumn’s 19th Party Congress, where, the FT notes, we might well see Wang become the country’s new Premier. Wang has built up a prodigious list of enemies over the past few years. He can’t afford to not be more aggressive now.