The decision of China’s ruling Communist Party to stick with the political theories of Karl Marx remains “totally correct”, President Xi Jinping said ahead of the 200th anniversary of the German philosopher’s birth on Saturday.
Since coming to power in 2012, Xi, widely seen as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has said the party must not forget its socialist roots as it works to attain the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.
At the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday, Xi said, “Writing Marxism onto the flag of the Chinese Communist Party was totally correct... Unceasingly promoting the sinification and modernisation of Marxism is totally correct.”
Xi also instructed all party members to adopt the reading of Marxist works and the understanding of Marxist theories as a “way of life” and a “spiritual pursuit”.
Xi’s speech came near the end of a week-long propaganda blitz by state media, with chat shows saying “Marx was Right” and cartoons of his wild youth aiming to show his theories remain relevant to modern China and the next generation.
Today, China, the largest self-identified socialist country, outwardly displays all the trappings of a modern capitalist society, from rampant consumption to a massive gap between the urban elite and rural poor.
The apparent contradiction between party rhetoric and appearance has prompted many analysts to suggest the party is no longer really motivated by Marxism but puts practical and economic concerns above all else.
However, Xi has wholeheartedly embraced the party’s founding ideology and re-introduced study sessions that hark back to the Mao era, as he stresses the need for China to be confident in its revolutionary history and political system.
“Even if it offends our post-communist conventional wisdom, I think we have to begin accepting the notion that Xi Jinping actually believes in Marx and Marxism,” said Jude Blanchette, head of China practice for Crumpton Group, a Washington-based advisory firm.
The emphasis on Marx also helps widen the ideological gulf with Western capitalist democracies in the wake of such events as the 2008 global financial crisis and the election of US President Donald Trump, Blanchette said.
“By embracing Marx even tighter, the party is contrasting itself with the ‘failing’ alternative political-economic model of the United States,” he added.