China aims to revitalize Marxism by marking his bicentenary
China is vigorously celebrating Marx’s bicentenary to demonstrate the abiding relevance of Marxism and reinforce the legitimacy of the CCP’s governance. In addition, President Xi Jinping wants to establish himself as the top authority on Marxism in China, according to experts.
 
President Xi Jinping and other members of the politburo standing committee at a meeting to commemorate Marx’s bicentenary
 
May 5, 2018 marked the bicentenary of Karl Marx's birth. As the world’s largest communist country, China celebrated the occasion by holding myriad commemorative events nationwide. On the top of the echelon, President Xi Jinping gave an inspiring speech at a commemorative meeting at the Great Hall of the People, which was broadcast live on state media. At the university campuses, various academic institutions have organized events to extoll the enduring historical correctness of Marxism, while special programs highlighting the virtues of Marxism have been broadcast during prime time on state TV. 
 
Although it is not an easy task to advocate Marxism to the young people who are less interested in politics in general, the Chinese government is sparing no effort in its bid to popularize Marxism. Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought are taught as compulsory courses as early as in elementary school.
 
To prove that Marxism is not simply an abstract concept confined to textbooks, Chinese media has used innovative ways. Most recently, CCTV broadcast a five-episode series called "Marx is Right" during prime time along with the People’s Daily and Xinhuanet. The program follows a dialogue format, and is laden with affable expressions, such as calling Marx a "problem juvenile", "super scholar", "cute fresh meat” to refer to his youthfulness, and “a master of chasing girls”. 
 
A still from "Marx is Right!" series broadcast on China Central Television
 
Marxism with Chinese characteristics 
 
In his speech at the Great Hall of the People, Xi commended Marx as the "teacher of revolution for the proletariat and working people all over the world ... the greatest thinker of modern times," and Marxism as an open, scientific theory that can respond to the challenges of human society. 
 
Wang Huning, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is the Marxism of modern China and a new development of Marxism in the 21st century, and is the latest theoretical outcome of the Party in upholding and developing Marxism in the new era with innovative and strategic perspectives.
 
Du Jinsen, former director of the Institute of Chinese Studies at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, said that Xi’s speech emphasized the significance of Marxism to China. Integrating Marxism with China’s reality has not only changed the fate of China in the past, but will continue to help China’s development and achieve the dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It is expected that the Chinese Communist Party will better apply Marxism to practice and lead China to overcome various challenges in the future.
 
Pierre Piccar, an expert on China at the 8th University of Paris, France, said that Marxism has been around for more than 100 years and the world has changed. However, many methods of Marxism can still be used to analyze and solve social problems. The Communist Party of China persists in holding high the banner of Marxism and chooses the right path for development.
 
"The connotation of Marxism with Chinese characteristics includes not only the basic principles of Marxism but also the new theory of building a community of common destiny, which contains China's wisdom. China's great achievements in socialism should be attributed to 'Chinese characteristics'. This success has so far been unique," said Vladimir Avtonov, a professor at National Research University's Higher School of Economics in Moscow.
 
"As a practical example embodying the truth of Marxism, China's tremendous achievements in economic and social development have effectively demonstrated the feasibility and effectiveness of scientific socialism," said Heinz Dietrich, a Mexican scholar who has long devoted himself to the study of Marxist theory.
 
Alexander Luomanov, a research expert on East Asian issues at the Valdei International Debate Club, a well-known Russian think-tank, said that China uses Marxist perspectives to study its social reality and growth prospect, to promote economic development. This is an ingenious integration of basic principle of Marxism with China's reality. Such exploration has been a tremendous success and has ensured China’s development into the second-largest economy in the world and set an example for other socialist countries.
 
However, many scholars in the West are skeptical of Sinicizing Marxism, which in their words amounts to “localizing Marxism” by revising the fundamentals of Marxism whenever and wherever necessary. Many Western scholars have argued that the key concepts of communism, such as the universismus, classless society, equality and democracy enshrined in the "Communist Manifesto," was later alienated and even abandoned in China, where workers especially migrant workers are denied equal rights and welfare enjoyed by other urban residents in the country. 
 
Reasons behind promoting Marxism
 
Some scholars said in interviews that the reason why Marxism is so vigorously revived is to demonstrate that Marxism is not outdated and to prove the legitimacy of the CCP’s governance. In addition, Xi wants to establish himself as the top authority on Marxism in China. 
 
Tang Renwu, dean of the Government Management Research Institute of Beijing Normal University, said, "Other communist countries have all changed. China is the only big country that upholds Marxism as its leading ideology, and President Xi is the general secretary of the world's largest political party. Declaring to the world that Marxism is still relevant in today’s world has great practical significance.”
 
Tang Renwu pointed out that some intellectuals in China have devalued Marxism as the guiding ideology of the Chinese Communist Party and mistakenly thought it was only one of the many schools of thought. In this context, Xi used the occasion of the bicentenary to stress that it is not feasible for the CCP to abandon Marxism. Only through the combination of basic principles of Marxism and national conditions can China achieve success.
 
Tang further noted that Xi’s high appraisal of Marxism is also a response to the Western criticism of China’s political system.
 

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