Examining Xi Jinping's speech on the method of Karl Marx

By Heiko Khoo
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, June 27, 2016
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Xi Jinping's recent speech on the methodology of Karl Marx aroused a lot of negativity in the Western media. They claimed it illustrated China's atrophy, stagnation and decline.

After all, according to the dominant socio-economic and political theories in the world, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the adoption of reform and opening in China, is a refutation of Marxism. So, when President Xi calls for "21st Century Marxism" they saw it as a dangerous and retrograde step.

Xi acknowledged that the social sciences and philosophy in China lag behind the country's objective needs. However, he argued, it was lack of effective and innovative application of Marxist theoretical insights that was the real problem -- not Marxism itself. Marxist philosophy "does not end the truth, but opens the door and paves the way to reach the truth," he declared.

Whilst, in the past, the Soviet Union and China sealed themselves off from social scientific thought internationally -- the opposite trend, to follow the dominant economic and political theories advocated in capitalist democracies, is just as damaging. As President Xi explained, despite representing a minority trend, Marxism has displayed its academic and political vitality in recent years.

In economics: the global economic crisis that appeared as a financial crisis in 2008 undermined the dominant neo-liberal economic theories. Consequently, the entire edifice of economic practice in the capitalist world has been exposed as a "king with no clothes."

The anaemic growth in Europe and the United States is concrete proof of this. A vast army of Western economic advisors, specialists, investors and experts -- quite a few of whom were awarded Nobel prize in economics -- failed to predict the world crisis. And they could neither explain its causes nor offer solutions.

Indeed, it is largely because of the failure of capitalist economics that the political spectrum in Europe and America has dramatically changed. Left-wing political forces that represent an awakening of the working classes emerged -- almost phoenix-like -- after decades of slumber in Greece, Britain, America, and beyond. Socialist ideas have returned to the center stage of world politics, economics and culture.

China's basic economic structure is at the core of its success; a position that Xi reaffirmed. "The mainstay status of public ownership and the leading role of the state-owned economy must not waver."

Yet, it is precisely this that Western economists and advisors have identified as the main problem in China throughout the last 30 years. They maintain that free markets and private property must play the leading role. However, it is quite clear Xi is right on this, and the pro-capitalists are wrong. This holds important lessons for left-wing forces internationally.

The driving force of capitalism -- the pursuit of profit -- does not dominate China’s economy. Instead, it is the needs of economic development and the process of planned urbanization. However, the complexities, difficulties and advantages of an economy led by public ownership and state-owned enterprises, are rarely studied in the West from a positive standpoint.

Nevertheless, there are highly competent Marxist economists and thinkers in the West, and a large layer of critically-minded social scientists and brilliant creative minds in the humanities and arts. If they are given the chance, they will be more than happy to help to foster new forms of urban life and workplace democracy in China.

China has become a sort of laboratory of socio-economic formations. This embrace of experimentation can offer dramatic insights capable of confirming or refuting various economic theories. For example, in the 1980s, the emergence of township village enterprises with "fuzzy" and unclear property rights was interpreted by economists like Joseph Stiglitz as evidence refuting the theory that economic dynamism must be based on private ownership.

Similarly, if we can discover why China grew by 7 percent after 2008, at a time when the world economy was in crisis, then there is a very strong chance that this will reveal how socialist economics can surpass the dynamics towards capitalist economic crisis everywhere.

Indeed, this is one of the main reasons Western economists constantly predict (and hope for) China's economic collapse, or its long-term decline. For if the solution to containing capitalist economic cycles is to be found in China, surely this will elevate Marxist economic theory to the center of economics internationally

As China has matured economically, a great deal of international attention has focused on the problems of the environment, markets, finance, science and architecture; less attention has been paid to the culture of social totality. In 2049, People's Republic will celebrate its 100th anniversary and the CPC's objective is to lay the foundations of an advanced socialist society by this time.

Xi Jinping's emphasis on encouraging scientific thought rooted in Marxism can help to stimulate thinking and experimentation designed to facilitate the creation of the communist society that the CPC constitution sets as its objective.

Heiko Khoo is a columnist with China.org.cn.

For more information please visit: http://china.org.cn/opinion/heikokhoo.htm

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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