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Don’t Ignore Marxism

Much is written these days about what makes China tick. It's the pragmatism. It's nationalism, and the desire to be a player on the world stage. It's "socialism with Chinese characteristics," which to some is just another way of saying capitalism. 

What is not talked about as much is the persistent influence of Marxism. The site Conversations recently posted an article by a professor at the University of Newcastle in Australia suggests that it is a mistake to ignore Marxism when trying to make sense of China: 

Many continue to dismiss Marxism in China, whether in terms of a repressive and inadequate ideology or as empty words in which no one “believes” any longer. This is a great mistake and risks neglecting what is arguably one of the most important factors for understanding China.

Mao Zedong is the point at which one should begin, although it helps to understand Marx, Engels and Lenin, let alone the history of successful socialist revolutions from Russia onwards. Mao’s thought remains the focus of intense study and debate in China – so much so that President Xi Jinping frequently quotes Mao in national and international contexts.

Xi has a PhD in Marxism and has directed even more resources to the study and fostering of the Marxist tradition and the work of Mao Zedong. Marxism is now a distinct discipline in China.

This is a good reminder when considering the relationship between the Chinese government (Party) and religion. Even though the there is a much more open environment for religion and the church than was the case under Mao, and even as recently as ten years ago, the official ideology has not changed.

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Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio

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