July 1, 2015 |
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21st Century China Opinion
Does Marx still matter in China?  
From the source

"The Marx building is part of (Peking University's) 'Six Marx Projects' that kicked off this year. Another highlight of the project is the launch of 'Ma Zang,' a grand collection of Marxism classics and documents. In the Chinese tradition, 'Zang' means collection of sacred sutras or treasures. Currently, there are only three collections of scriptures named 'Zang' in the Chinese language: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The launch of the Marxism collection as 'Zang' put it on an equal footing with the other three major Chinese traditions." 

Source: Global Times
Our take 

In 1982, László Ladány, a Hungarian Jesuit who had been living in Hong Kong since fleeing the mainland in 1949, sat down to edit the last issue of his China News Analysis, a widely read weekly newsletter that he had published since 1953. In that final issue, he included 10 suggestions for analyzing contemporary Chinese politics. One commandment stands out, "Study the basic tenets of Marxism." No doubt in 1982, six years after the death of Mao Zedong, this already sounded a bit anachronistic. But in 2015, do we still need to understand Marxism to understand Xi Jinping and the communist party that he leads? 

Many China analysts seem to believe the answer is no. Daniel Bell, a professor at Tsinghua University, recently wrote, "Even party members distrust Marxism, and most students dread their compulsory Marxism classes." This is a widely echoed sentiment in the West-Marxism, a rich current of critical thinking in the West, has been turned into an empty vessel used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to prop up its flagging revolutionary legitimacy. 
Yet look at the curriculum for CCP members attending training at one of the country's roughly 2,500 local party schools and you will see a bounty of classes focusing on communist and Marxist theory. In December, Xi Jinping himself delivered well-publicized remarks on the continuing importance of Marxism in guiding party members. In higher education, Marx is once again being promoted: Peking University recently announced a $16 million dollar gift from Baoshang Bank Co. for a new eight-story Marxism center. Just a few days ago, Politburo Standing Committee Member Liu Yunshan delivered remarks at a meeting on Marxist research and theory within the party. 
If it's all a ruse, why the elaborate pretense?  
Wei Bo, an associate professor of Marxism at Peking University, told me last week that the CCP still saw much of its legitimacy tied to its Marxist legacy. That today's China has few active Marxists was to miss the point that Marx is grafted on to the national narrative. All nations have founding myths, Wei told me, and so from the perspective of the national leadership it is important to sustain the narrative in the eyes of the people even if it's only at a superficial level. 
So does Marx matter? Yes and no. Spending a year parsing the finer points of "Das Kapital" probably won't help anyone get a better handle on what's happening in China. But then again, understanding that many of the "outdated" elements of China's ideological marketplace are a function of its national story, and thus unlikely to disappear any time soon, will help us make better sense of the current Marxist revival happening in Beijing. 
So, next time you hear the Chinese officials promoting German-born Marx, don't think of Marxism, think of the Chinese national myth. 
Field Notes from China:
Selections from
Chinese-language Media

Remolding China's foreign policy discourse

SummaryAs China's recent success in recruiting members for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank demonstrated, when it works with a degree of subtlety, it is capable of great international success. On occasion, however, China's actions and wording can seem out of sync with global norms. This often manifests itself in the language it uses for new initiatives and policies, which often seem awkward or overly grandiose. Xue Li, a political scientist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, recently argued that as China continues to move into the global arena, it must do better at speaking to foreign audiences.   


Excerpt from the story: "Departments in the central and local governments often like to use military terms such as 'front-line troops' and 'bridgehead' in describing nonmilitary projects, as they believe they are effective, concise and easy to understand. In the Chinese linguistic context, this way of communicating is indeed effective, as few would think these terms are related to war-making. However, when communicated to the outside world, they can create ambiguity, especially when used in connection to border disputes. Given the massive weight that China now throws around, these linguistic misunderstandings can create concern among small- and medium-sized counties along our borders." 


Source: FT中文网

A CCP committee at Xiaomi should be cause for celebration  


SummaryOn June 19, it was announced that a CCP committee had been created within the electronics company Xiaomi, setting off a storm of commentary on the Internet. While it has been routine for state-owned enterprises to have party committees, larger private companies such as Xiaomi and Baidu are now also under pressure to allow the party in. Many netizens jeered the move, seeing it as an effort by the CCP to gain a political foothold in the company. In response, the Global Times published an op-ed defending the move.


Excerpt from the story: "The CCP is the ruling party of China, and is also the leading force behind the national constitution. The CCP attracts a large amount of outstanding talent and from this is able to advance the experience of this talent pool. Many private companies and senior management know the truth in the following saying: The performance of CCP members is often greater than non-party members. If an applicant is a party member, this will often give him or her a leg up in the hiring process. If a company is willing to further engage the party through setting up a party committee, this is a completely healthy attitude. All across the world, companies make efforts to have good relations with the ruling party or potential ruling parties without any controversy. Yet yesterday many netizens said that Xiaomi had 'surrendered to the CCP' because of its actions, an argument that is quite absurd."


Source: Global Times

China Talk: Interviews, Lectures and Events
New Perspectives on Innovation and Intellectual Property Policy in China: What Does the Evidence Say? 
China's intellectual property regime is undergoing rapid change, although it is not always clear what this means for protection for foreign firms. At a recent workshop, jointly organized by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and UC San Diego, leading U.S. and Chinese intellectual property (IP), innovation and economic experts from government, academia and industry explored the latest developments in the Chinese IP domain. Click here to view the videos from the sessions.


School of Global Policy and Strategy
(formerly School of International Relations and Pacific Studies)
21st Century China Program
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