Chinese Government is Brainwashing Children with Books

The government has quite a bit of control over education. This is no secret even in countries like the United States, where educational reforms come down the pipeline from the President himself. What children learn is directly related to what politicians want them to learn. Luckily, it seems that, so far, the Common Core national educational standards seem pretty well-rounded and leave a lot open for teacher interpretation, especially when it comes to the reading and language arts standards. Literature teachers such as myself have a lot of autonomy in choosing books for their classes to read. Unfortunately, in China, this is not the case.

On July 15, the Chinese government released a list of 100 books and 100 movies, documentaries and television shows they found suitable for the nation’s youth to read. This list was a joint effort from three organizations: Central Propaganda Department, Ministry of Education and Central Communist Youth League. These organizations plan to promote these works heavily among China’s youth. According to them, their goal is to “deeply and thoroughly realize the spirit of the Party’s 18th National Congress, to strongly promote the national spirit and the spirit of the age among the youth, and to encourage all youth to fight to realize the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

What does that mean exactly? It means that they want to promote Communist ideology and Chinese nationalism. Just look at the titles of the first three books on the list: “Stories of Marx,” “China Has a Mao Zedong,” and “Zhou Enlai: the Early Years.”

Luckily, Chinese parents aren’t happy. The list was circulated electronically, and parents had their say in the comments sections with comments like, “When I have children, I guess I’ll buy books and read to them myself. This brainwashing is too intense.” The former head of Google in China, Kai-fu Lee, sent out this tweet that seemed to capture the sentiments of the nation: “I recommended the following children’s books, but they were politely rejected by a certain department: Cinderella, Charlotte’s Web, The Princess Diaries, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Now that I’ve seen this list, I understand why.”

Even though you would think such things wouldn’t happen in a democratic country like America, it most definitely does. I have had numerous parents ask that their students be given different books to read when we start “1984,” George Orwell’s infamous look at a too-controlling government. Parents sometimes don’t want their kids reading books with any kind of sexuality in them, and often times don’t appreciate the anti-government tones. Similarly, I was concerned when I started reading “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley with a class of sophomores, but I haven’t received any complaints about that yet.

It is for this very reason that books are banned in this country. People fear the power the written word has over young children, and they don’t want those children exposed to anything that might be contrary to what is taught at home. This movement in China is the opposite of the Banned Books movement in the United States in that the government is actively trying to use these books to brainwash the nation’s youth, but the message is the same: words are powerful, and they can be used to teach children whatever we want to teach them, just by allowing them to open up a book.

It is a power that should be respected and, as parents, teachers and citizens, we should be aware of what our students are reading to ensure that, by reading them, they are not participating in some kind of governmental brainwashing conspiracy. China’s parents had it right, and if their government continues to push ideology they do not agree with, it will be important for them to present a balanced view at home.

Photo Credit: Montgomery Planning Commission


Glacier W.
Glacier W.3 months ago

I am Chinese and I get my education in China.I just want to tell you we are not forced to read those books anyway.Speaking of 1984,the animal farm and the brave new world,actually we can find and read these freely in any bookshops and libraries.If you doubt what I say,just come over and check it out.Also our history teacher introduced the event of Tiananmen Square Protests and the Culture revolution in class.Honestly,It makes me sad that you view our country in this way,like many other foreigners I've seen.We know the Party has done something wrong and I personally really don't like it.But I still love China and very proud of its super-long history,which in my humble opinion has much more influence on Chinese people despite it maybe hard for you to comprehend.I don't know if I can change your mind but I still hope the others may see this and keep an open mind on China.

Kelvin L.
Kelvin L.1 years ago

lol. i dont even like reading books. not my type. Most people in Canada hate reading books

Aaron B.
Aaron B.2 years ago

wow talk about evil -seriously though this makes me wounder about how their exchange students make it over to the usa

Kay Martin
Kay M.3 years ago

Thank you Ashley for a good article with great information, And also thanks to the 108 care 2 members that commented on this subject. I was very enjoyable reading all of them. I love the attitude of the parents, if the kids can not get the books in school, the parents will just buy them and read to them at home....period.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener3 years ago


Prima B.
PrimaAWAY B.3 years ago


Bruce K.
Bruce K.3 years ago

For years in America if not "Brainwashing" I would call it Controlled Information is what is produced by the Major Liberal Networks ie: NBC doctoring tapes to fit their agenda

Elke Hoppenbrouwers

Before you complain about Chinese schools, and there is a good amount to complain about, look at American history book, which very often still give us a slanted idea about Native Americans and slavery. Or check out all those states that basically forbid science books to mention evolution. There is a lot that has to be done in this country, too, so don't feel to smug.

simon short
Simon Short3 years ago

In the meantime, the US is mainly informed by the very corporations which destroy the lives of its citizens visa Fox News, every program is censored and edited by the companies which run the stations and every program and spare piece of space is punctuated by an advert for those corporations ... and MacDonnalds sponsors the education system.
Because you grew up under this brainwashing you regard it as 'Normal'. Worse, you'll support it as 'Part of free-speech'.
Now, try putting up a message which a corporation DOESN'T like in a public place.
See how long it stays there.
Or - more specifically - what happened to the advert about oil companies which was paid for and legally agreed to be broadcast during the last Presidential appearance on 'Today'?
It was never shown.
You have little effect on China (Not that it's not worth having a bash - everyone could do with free speech and they DO own a LOT of the US and other countries, so it IS in our interests for them to be democratic) but some effect on your own country.
Petition your own local paper to have less corporate brainwashing in YOUR media.
Good luck - really. We need more people doing this.
And, thank you.

Nicole Roberts
Nicole m3 years ago

Im not surprised. They are teaching the nation opinions of the government and not useful information. How annoying!