A magazine published by China's Communist Party has lashed out at university professors in the country who spread “Western values,” as new government-imposed guidelines for schools raise concerns about academic freedom.

An article in the influential Qiushi Journal, written by party official Xu Lan, blasted Peking University law professor He Weifang and painter Chen Danqin, both of whom are known for social media posts that are critical of aspects of Chinese society, while Danqin also occasionally posts about U.S. culture, the South China Morning Post reported.

"It will be a disaster if we fail to set up standards and a bottom line to prevent high school and university teachers spreading Western values through internet platforms to defame our communist ideology," Xu wrote.

The comments come as universities in China face increasing pressure from the government to stick to an approved ideological line in their teaching.

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, according to Reuters.

In December last year, President Xi Jinping called for greater "ideological guidance" in the country's universities, saying that they had to "shoulder the burden of learning and researching the dissemination of Marxism".

The authorities subsequently issued guidelines for universities, and Willy Lam, a political analyst at Chinese University in Hong Kong, told the Associated Press that professors were reporting tighter controls, including government monitors filing covert reports on classroom lectures

"For intellectuals, this is a disturbing phenomenon. It's a return to Maoist values," he said

An internal Chinese government memo leaked last year, known simply as Document 9, outlined seven forces that the Party considered a threat to its power.

These included “Western constitutional democracy”; promoting “universal values” of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civic participation, ardently pro-market “neo-liberalism,” and “nihilist” criticisms of the party’s traumatic past, the New York Times reported.