China punishes 27 officials for ‘ugly’ textbook drawings

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) — China has punished more than two dozen education officials for a series of cartoons in math textbooks that an investigation found portrayed the country’s children as “ugly.”

The Ministry of Education said in a statement on Monday August 22 that some 27 public publisher officials had been reprimanded or fired for illustrations “falling short of the basic requirements of moral education”.

“The overall style of the illustrations does not conform to the aesthetic tastes of the public,” the ministry said. “Some of the characters depicted are ugly, show poor spirit and style, and do not reflect a positive image of our country’s children.”

The People’s Education Press elementary school books sparked an uproar on Chinese social media in May over drawings of pupils with small eyes that some have called racist, the apparent depiction of male genitalia on boys’ and children’s pants wearing stars and stripes clothing, which was seen as pro-American attire.

In May, the country’s largest textbook publisher issued a public apology on its official WeChat account after being ordered to redesign its materials for the semester starting in September.

China has tightened control over its textbooks and curricula in recent years to boost patriotism among its youth.

The government decided to ban textbooks from foreign publishers and trained primary and secondary school students in the ideological teachings of President Xi Jinping.

The Department of Education said on Monday that the publisher did not understand the purpose of the education textbooks.

He pledged to strengthen the Communist Party’s leadership on teaching materials to ensure that they would “always adhere to the correct political direction and the orientation of values.”