January 20, 2006

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Raise the Red Marx

Yesterday I mentioned the curious rise of Marxism within the Chinese central bank. It seems this is just one small part of a broader push to revive Marxism within China...which seem incredibly strange given no-one outside North Korean believe Marxist economics works, and that outside of universities no-one believes in Marxist philosophy. The unlinkable SCMP reports:

After more than two decades of capitalist market reforms, Communist Party leaders have pledged "unlimited" funds for reviving Marxism on the mainland. Sources say the programme will also involve turning the country into the global centre for studying the ideology.

Economic reforms have seen the mainland grow richer by abandoning Karl Marx's economic ideas, but President and party general secretary Hu Jintao told a Politburo meeting in November that Marxism was still applicable to the mainland. Leaders are also keen to fill the ideological void that has emerged in a more prosperous China, and the Communist Party believes the answer lies in the ideology that gave birth to it...Beijing will summon 3,000 top Marxist theorists and academics from across the country to the capital to compile 100 to 150 Marxism textbooks, with each work requiring contributions from at least 20 to 30 scholars. Between 100 million and 200 million yuan has been earmarked for the programme, with more than 1 million yuan to be allocated to funding the compilation of each textbook. The project would also see a massive investment of human and financial resources go towards building more research institutes, training more theorists and producing more academic papers, the sources said.

Li Changchun , a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and the party's chief official in charge of ideology, told a meeting of propaganda officials and theorists on Monday that the leadership saw the project as instrumental to solving various issues facing the country and had given it "unlimited" support...All university students are required to attend Marxism classes. Secondary school graduates are also required to sit a national examination on Marxism before university enrolment.

And I thought China's space program was a waste of money.

posted by Simon on 01.20.06 at 08:37 AM in the China politics category.


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I don't think anyone in China is seriously contemplating turning the clock back. But I think Hu and Wen also recognize that there are a lot of people that think some things were better then (an egalitarian society) and perhaps it is part of their push to encourage development of rural and inland regions. The Shanghai clique always resented Mao for taking their surplus and throwing it at Guizhou and Gansu; Jiang and his cadres totally reversed that policy, and pretty much made it everyone for themselves. I think the current leadership think that there is some room, if only for their legitimacy, for more balanced development efforts.

I guess there will always been some regions that don't do as well as others - Arkansas v. New York, or Darwin v. Sydney. But there is something to be said for national policies that share the new wealth, at least a little bit, with those regions.

In my view, that a macroeconomic 'social' Marxism is what perhaps is being implied here, insofar as 'Marxism' to a certain segment of the Chinese population equates with 'fairness' and 'egality'.

I think that we must be also cognizant of the vacuum of moral principles in modern day, officially still atheist China. Given that the ruling party is still the Chinese Communist Party, not only must they extrapolate any official morality from their history but also they feel they must do so without giving free rein to other religions that could topple its official monopoly on public morality.

So short of creating some sort of old-style 'cult of personality' Kim Il-Sung or Mao Zedong state religion, I think they are furiously racking their brains about how to create a unifying, appealing moral code that at once is consistent with some aspect of Marxism, that addresses modern society's need for moral principles (especially for officials!), and that does not give license or initiative to religious institutions outside of their control.

I personally don't see how it'll be done, but one can understand why they are trying.

posted by: HK Dave on 01.20.06 at 12:49 PM [permalink]

I agree that the underlying motivation is likely to be appearing close to the old Marxist theme of social equality - appealing both to peasants and cadres who still have faith in the old system. But it's pretty thorough though - Hu's been promoting the whole red tourism thing and advocating N Korea and Cuba as study models for the management of ideology. Not to mention the whole Marxist re-education programme for all 60m+ CCP members.

Interestingly there were quite a few mutterings during the campaign from cadres in the cities who feel it's a pointless waste of time in the modern era. Can't imagine why... I'm just waiting for the government to start outsourcing these courses in Marxism to the private sector.

posted by: Duncan on 01.20.06 at 06:23 PM [permalink]

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