BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for greater "ideological guidance" in China's universities and urged the study of Marxism, state media reported on Monday, as the country tightens control on Western ideology.
Xi's comments are the latest sign of his politically conservative agenda and come amid a ratcheting up of controls over the media, dissidents and the internet.
China's Communist Party has signaled that it will not embark on political reform, despite hopes that Xi, the son of a former liberal-minded vice premier, may loosen up.
Xi said universities had to "shoulder the burden of learning and researching the dissemination of Marxism", Xinhua state news agency said.
Xi called on the authorities to step up the party's "leadership and guidance" in universities as well as to "strengthen and improve the ideological and political work".
The campuses should "cultivate and practice the core values of socialism in their teaching", Xi said.
Curricula and speech at Chinese universities are tightly controlled by the government, though students have at times pushed the limits, including during the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests that were brutally suppressed by the army.
An influential party journal said in September that one of China's top universities, Peking University, had urged students and teachers to "fight" criticism of the party.
Last year, a liberal Chinese economist who had been an outspoken critic of the party was expelled from Peking University after he called for democratic reforms.
Xi has espoused old school Maoism as he seeks to court powerful conservative elements in the party. Like many officials before him, Xi is steeped in the party's long-held belief that loosening control too quickly, or even at all, could lead to chaos and the break up of the country.
Xi's administration has overseen a crackdown on dissidents and on freedom of expression that many rights activists say is the most sustained and severe in years.
Last week, Chinese media reported that a university in northwestern China had banned Christmas, calling it a "kitsch" foreign celebration unbefitting of the country's own traditions and made students watch propaganda films instead.
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie)