April 15, 2019
In a March 22 document, the Chinese Communist Youth League said it was sending more than 10 million vocational school and university students to rural areas as volunteers by 2022 in order to “increase their skills, spread civilization and promote science and technology.” The document was made public by Chinese state media as well as by international news agencies.
For some the deployment of millions of students to “spread civilization” evokes the excesses and chaos of the Cultural Revolution in 1966-76, when millions of Chinese intellectuals and others were sent to live in the countryside. According to an AFP report, which monitored reaction to the campaign on China’s Twitter-like Weibo social media platform, a user, WangTingYu, posted “Has it started again?,” while another user with a Tibetan-sounding name, KalsangWangduTB, posted: “Sometimes history advances, sometimes it retreats.”
Xi Jinping, president of China and secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, spent seven years in a village in the northwestern province of Shaanxi starting at the age of 16. Xi has become known for reinvigorating Communist Party ideology to an extent unseen since the Cultural Revolution, and policy developments in Tibet indicate a doubling-down on strategies of control and securitization.