Chinese Xenophobes Take Issue With 'Pro-U.S.' Textbook Drawings
China has ordered a nationwide review of school textbooks after illustrations deemed ugly, sexually suggestive, and secretly pro-American caused public uproar, Nectar Gan reported for CNN.
Photo Insert: A digital painting by Chinese young CG artist 乌合麒麟
The news has alarmed some experts and parents who fear the campaign is turning into a political witch hunt and represents an unnecessary tightening of the country's already stringent censorship of cultural publications.
The drawings, found in a series of math textbooks that have been used by Chinese primary schools for nearly a decade, suddenly roiled internet users have criticized the pictures of children with small, drooping, wide-set eyes and big foreheads as ugly, offensive, and racist.
Mocking the critics, commentators said it would be bad for illustrators to make Chinese kids look like Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is not exactly handsome.
Others see sexual connotations in the drawings, noting the pictures show little boys with a bulge in their pants. In one illustration of children playing a game, one boy has his hands on a girl's chest while another pulls a girl's skirt; in another drawing, a girl's underwear is exposed as she jumps rope.
Internet users have also accused the illustrations of being "pro-United States," because they show several children wearing clothes patterned with stars and stripes and in the colors of the American flag.
One drawing that showed an inaccurate rendering of the stars on the Chinese flag was accused of being "anti-China." But the campaign is not only about aesthetic and moral values — there is an ideological component as well.
Textbooks have been front and center in Chinese leader Xi Jinping's efforts to tighten ideological control over the country's youth and fend off the influence of "Western values."
Under Xi, the Chinese government has banned foreign teaching materials — including textbooks and classic novels — in all public primary and secondary schools, stating that all teaching materials "must reflect the will of the party and the country."
The criticism of the textbooks has also turned into personal attacks on the illustrators. Wu Yong, whose art studio designed the illustrations, was accused of being a spy for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Wu's alma mater, the Academy of Arts & Design of China's Tsinghua University, was not spared the wrath of xenophobic users who accused the academy of being a "hotbed for breeding traitors."
Even the high-profile graphic artist Wuheqilin — who made a name by mocking Western countries with his ultra-nationalist artwork — has come under fire. Critics accused Wuheqilin of helping anti-China forces after he suggested the poor quality of the illustrations was likely in part a result of the low commissions offered to designers — a problem he said the industry had faced for years.