Recently, two of my colleagues mentioned to me that they have had to surrender their passports to the authorities. Everyone on staff at the managerial level had to turn in their passport. If they want to go abroad, they have to fill out forms, get things stamped, their boss has to sign off for them, and so the boss's career is on the line, too.
This curtailment of their civil liberties is an attempt to stem mostly corruption+ and to a lesser extent espionage. For me, this was a reminder that behind this civil society (and by "civil," I mean orderly, courteous, safe and the trains run on time) lies a dictatorship.
In my year and a half in China, I haven't seen a prison or an orphanage, but I know that they are out there. Somewhere in this province, political dissidents are being held and baby girls and disabled children are being abandoned by parents. One such "baby hatch" is located in the provincial capital of Jinan, just a few hours by train from where I live. Shortly after its opening the authorities were overwhelmed with the number of foundlings.
I don't know what level of detail or guidance Minister Yang provided, but I can tell you that our English textbooks have many excerpts that promote Western values in one way or another.
For example, a textbook that I was assigned last semester included a speech from 1941, called The Production of Wealth, which clearly explained why capitalism creates wealth for the factory owner, better wages for the worker, and better products for the consumer.*
The speech would have been subversive in FDR's America at the time it was published, to say nothing of what Chairman Mao would have thought of it. If texts like that disappear from future editions of the textbook, I would know there is a serious pushback going on. As it is, I think the government is mostly watching for specific criticisms of the regime. BTW, how did the textbook compiler come across this speech? Are there old copies of Vital Speeches of the Day in the library stacks somewhere in Shanghai? Are they more interested in finding copyright-free material than understanding what these speeches actually say? Because the person who put this speech in a Chinese textbook is acknowledging the truth -- a small cadre of Marxist goons forced hundreds of millions of Chinese people to waste their time, talent and energies for decades harnessed to a system that held them back from the progress made by their capitalist neighbors. And even today, the government cannot openly admit this fact, but has to talk about "socialism with Chinese characteristics." And lest you mention, sure, but rapid industrial development under liberalization has wrecked their environment, you should know that Mao's policies did massive damage to China's environment.
Despite this decree that came down last January, no-one has said anything to me about watching what I say in the classroom apart from the boiler plate in my contract. In fact, I'm teaching a class on the importance of the Bible as the foundational text in Western culture and history. I start with a disclaimer that I'm not preaching Christianity, purely teaching the structure of the Bible, samples of the stories, proverbs, psalms, how the language of the Bible is still used today, etc. Just this morning I read this on Twitter, "For Obama so loved the Senate...." That wording would go right by somebody without any Bible knowledge. These are things any student of Western culture should know.
I have never read of any other government keeping its population numbers down as China has done. If China's industrial pollution is to be laid at its feet, it should also be acknowledged that the One Child Policy has had an environmental impact because 400 million people were never born since 1979, when the policy was begun. Imagine that, a dictatorship foregoing the opportunity to boss around an additional almost-half-a-billion people.
Now, if only that second child could be conceived on a nice holiday trip to Thailand or the Maldive Islands... but that would require getting government permission.
*You can read an interesting interview with the maker of that speech, the blood-sucking imperialist oppressor of the workers, Frederick C. Crawford, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, here.