In a race to censor Western culture and religion in China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has issued a directive on August 20 prohibiting schools and parents from purchasing textbooks that have not been officially approved by the regime.
This caused parents and students in Shanghai to rush to panic-buy books at the state-backed Xinhua Bookstore, where English textbooks have flown out of their shelves for fear that these materials would be banned under the CCP's renewed crackdown on private tutoring.
On Monday, photos of empty shelves that appeared to be in the Xinhua Bookstore were posted on social media along with complaints for the lack of some textbooks, Radio Free Asia reported. A Shanghai-based parent told the media outlet, "A lot of parents were taking photos in bookstores in Shanghai, because teaching materials for English had disappeared from the shelves. That caused panic among the parents...because they had already stopped selling those books that have exercises in each chapter."
The Shanghai-based parent added that another buyer told her of incidents wherein people were arrested for selling pirated copies of the textbooks. She explained how students and parents alike are facing difficulties acquiring books online, saying that "Even if you manage to buy a book...you have to go underground, as if you were at a meeting of the [CCP] when it was banned."
Shanghai municipal authorities established an official book buying scheme at 20 designated branches of the Xinhua bookstore chain in the city "to solve the problem of individual students' ordering of teaching materials," a directive cited by Shangguan News said.
The directive also ordered schools to furnish a list of students who need to purchase specific books in advance. Xinhua Bookstores' owner, Xinhua Media, took to social media to comment that the empty shelves were due to "equipment failure."
English textbooks and other English-language materials have grown scarce in Shanghai after the CCP canceled primary school English exams to "lighten the burden on children and parents" after campaigns to de-emphasize English in China's state schools. In addition, schools are also prohibited from using foreign-published textbooks that have not been reviewed or approved by the CCP's education bureau's textbook review committee.
Earlier this month, Nikkei Asia reported that while students won't have to worry about English lessons this coming school year, they will have to commit to memorizing Xi Jinping Thought ideologies, including this: "The Communist Party leads all forms of work in China."
Students in elementary, middle and high schools will also be required to read and understand a new textbook on "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era."
This is not the first time the CCP cracked down on English or Western educational materials. In May, reports surfaced that the Sha Mian Tang Church in Guangzhou, China began to display Mao Zedong's "Little Red Book" and Xi Jinping's "The Governance of China" instead of the Bible in the church library. Another Catholic church in Jiangxi was also found to be displaying CCP literature and banners instead of Bibles.
ChinaAid reported at the time that these attempts were "to control and influence the thoughts of Christian citizens through the means noted, and to bring the Christian church as a subordinate group."