Schools worldwide have long engaged in various forms of ‘war education’. In China, an extensive ‘Patriotic Education’ campaign and an expanded ‘National Defense Education’ curriculum have led to an increase in youth-oriented military programs in the 2000s. Previous work on the implementation of these programs in Chinese schools has mostly focused on urban elite youth, while overlooking the reception of these programs by non-urban, non-elite populations. The present study addresses this issue by examining youth perceptions and experiences of military training courses in urban and rural high schools. Drawing on the analysis of Chinese publications in the 2000s and on data from field interviews with students of different backgrounds, the study finds that youth military training constitutes a contentious program. Although the Chinese government promotes the program as crucial for military strengthening and the fostering of a patriotic spirit, PRC academic and media writers provide alternative rationales for the program, which at times undermine the logic of government articulations. Meanwhile, interviews with youth document divergent attitudes and even resentment towards the program, especially among city youth. This finding casts doubt on the assumption that military-training courses necessarily contribute to the increased ‘militarization’ of Chinese youth and education.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by Spencer Foundation [grant number 201700072].
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- youth attitudes