China’s Future Leader Xi Jinping Emphasizes Study of Marxism

Summary from Chinascope:

At the commencement ceremony of the second session of the spring semester of the Central Party School, the highest training institute for Chinese Communist Party officials, Xi Jinping, China’s Vice President and the President of the CPS, delivered a speech emphasizing reading the classic writings of Marxism… [saying], “You cannot do without the guidance of Marxist philosophy and the methodology of dialectical materialism and historical materialism.”

China's Future Leader Xi Jinping Emphasizes Study of Marxism (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Why talk about Marxism all of a sudden?

After 30 years of capitalist reform and economic growth in China, few Chinese still believe in the basic tenants of Marxism and communism, such as replacing private property with co-operative ownership.  So why, in 2011, is the future leader of China calling for a return to Marxist values?

We spoke with political science professor Edward Friedman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Here is what he told us over the phone.

Why is the next leadership in China talking about Marxism?

I think [Xi Jinping] is talking not even just to the Party but to the entire Chinese people.

There is every reason to think that this [next] leadership is going to be less open to civil society, less open to personal freedom, more interested in making use of disciplines, which will be defined as being in favor of equality and on the side of the people who’ve been left out. And they know there is anger in the society at the corruption in the country, and the great polarization between rich and poor, and they are looking for a way of maintaining power, maintaining their legitimacy.

I think that they believe using this language in this way of thinking about these things first makes good sense to them, and will be very attractive to many Chinese people who do not like the features of the present system.

They are conscious of these problems in the society; they [are] going to hold onto power and this is one of the ways they intend to do it.

This would mean that—you could already see it beginning to happen actually—that personal freedoms will be restricted, you could already see it coming, current with the restrictions on the use of various websites and blogs and so on…from the point of view of young people who experience their very way of life as having open access to these kinds of modes of social communication, they definitely will experience the change as making life worse for them.

I think that is not an intended consequence but an unintended consequence of the regime’s attempt to try to deal with certain problems, in ways which always maintain the monopoly of power for the Chinese Communist Party.

And Marxism is one of those ways; they think it legitimizes the Party.

I think [the leaders] mean to sell them [those words] at a popular level too. They feel that these things are something which will get a popular response from people in the society who are upset about corruption, polarization and things like that. It’s meant very much to appeal to ordinary Chinese people too.

I could be wrong, but I would expect Xi Jinping’s administration to be going much more in a direction which people would think of as being as more orthodox Leninist —I mean, they say “Marx” but they mean “Lenin”—more orthodox Leninist.

It would mean, I think, a decrease in personal freedom and social space. But what [Xi Jinping] hopes it would mean is less corruption, less polarization, and more support for the Party.

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