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China's Communist Party

How ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ is just another example of new theory replacing the old

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2018, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 July, 2018, 9:03pm

Communism has become synonymous with oligarchy and poverty, and capitalism with exploitation and corruption. This is reflected in the history of China over the past seven decades (“All aboard Xi Jinping’s train of thought as city decorates subway carriages with propaganda”, July 3).

History has proved that communism, as introduced by the great German philosopher Karl Marx in the 19th century, was impractical and contrary to human nature, given the latter’s intrinsic bent towards covetousness and selfishness. No wonder a statue of Karl Marx gifted to Germany by China in remembrance of the bicentenary of his birth precipitated heated debate.

Karl Marx at 200: the giant Chinese statue that has become a figure of controversy in Germany’s Trier

Aware of the deficiencies of communism and capitalism, Xi Jinping, the president of China, may have adopted a policy of amalgamation of the merits of these two systems. This coincides with the theory of dialectics proposed by German philosopher, GWF Hegel, who greatly influenced Marx and other leading thinkers.

Hegel viewed the history of society as a series of conflicts, and civilisation as progressing through three stages, which have been termed “thesis, antithesis, synthesis”. Since the Communist Party took control of the mainland in 1949, people in China envisioned a new life under communism. But after years of austerity under two campaigns, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, people realised that a centrally planned economy, the original idea or thesis, was unrealistic.

Convinced that the market economy, a contradictory viewpoint – or antithesis – was the way to improve people’s livelihood, China launched a process of economic reform in 1979, when free market activities and individual enterprises became legalised in the communist country. And that seemed to be successful, as remarkable growth was achieved in the following years, but together with corruption among officials and businessmen and widening income disparities.

These problems remained unsolved until President Xi came to power in 2012. Since then, an anti-corruption campaign and eradication of poverty have become his top priority. On the other hand, China has again been haunted by the spectre of Marx, as Xi underscored the contribution made by Marx while delivering a speech in the Great Hall of the People on May 4.

‘Xi Jinping Thought’ – a break with China’s past?

The combination of the benefits of capitalism and communism represent the third stage of Hegel’s dialectics – synthesis. As a society develops, contradiction is inevitable and new theories routinely substitute the old ones. Xi’s theory, like those of his predecessors, is no exception.

Barnaby Ieong, Macau