A zoo in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has specified a good grasp of Marxist theory as a requirement for its newly advertised keeper vacancies, sparking widespread satirical humor online.
Duties of a zookeeper include feeding the animals, inspecting their droppings, cleaning their cages, and giving out basic information about them, the advertisement recently posted on the zoo's website said.
"Applicants should possess relevant professional knowledge of zookeeping, including: an understanding of the principles of Marxist philosophy and of Mao Zedong Thought and socialism with Chinese characteristics," the ad said.
An employee who answered the phone at the zoo confirmed that these were among the criteria for selection.
"Our criteria are based on the public knowledge base, which isn't something decided by us," the employee said.
The advertisement was rapidly passed around on China's popular microblogging services, where netizens joked about how knowledge of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's ideology might apply to the vocation of zookeeper.
On Sina Weibo, user @braveNikkita asked: "So, what, are they going to brainwash the monkeys now? Are they afraid of a rebellion?"
User @runde88 quipped: "The animals in the zoo have it better than the people. They have food and drink, a place to live ... healthcare and insurance."
And @renshengruxingqi commented: "Those animals could join the Party. Elephants, hippos and wild beasts would make excellent Party members."
The user added: "The monkeys should get patriotic education."
Comments reported in the South China Morning Post drew parallels between pigs, tigers and corrupt officials, with some referencing George Orwell's political satire Animal Farm.
Hu Xingdou, professor at the Beijing University of Science and Technology, said the advertisement showed the level to which Chinese society was politicized.
"All citizens receive an ideological education...but people don't really care about it," Hu said.
"It's not just zookeepers; even primary school children are given political indoctrination."
"They haven't realized that today's society is a pluralistic and diverse society," Hu added. "They still keep going with these old traditions, which is basically a form of brainwashing."
Hu said such emphasis on ideology usually had the opposite effect, however.
"There will always be a backlash against any ideological campaign which they try to run."
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.