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China 'Revives Marx'; What About Jiang Zemin?
[Analysis] Why does Hu Jintao accelerate the implementation of the Marx Project?
Kim Tae Kyung (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2006-02-06 15:07 (KST)   
Conference on Marxism Studies, the Establishment Project, and the Compilation Team of Philosophy Textbooks held at Hunan University, Hunan Province, China, on May 20, 2005
©2006 www.hnu.cn
Hu Jintao, president of China, celebrated the Chinese lunar New Year on Jan. 30 in Yan'an in Shanxi Province

According to the Xinhua News Agency, President Hu visited farmers in villages and expressed his New Year's greetings to them. He also visited historical sites of the Chinese revolution in Yan'an, including the former residence of Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Liu Shaoqi, and Lin Biao.

Mr. Hu said, "the 'Yan'an soul," rooted in the soil of Yan'an, is the most valuable spiritual property." He further emphasized that the "Yan'an soul" should play a key role in enhancing people's solidarity in building a society in which earning one's daily necessities would not be a problem.("Xiao Kang" society).

Yan'an is a holy site of the Chinese socialist revolution led by Mao Zedong. Being blockaded by Nationalist forces, the Red Army began its retreat - the "Long March" (Changzheng) of 9,600km (6,000 miles), in 1934. After confronting all kinds of hardship, the army finally settled in Yan'an, where it could maintain its revolutionary authority, enabling it to declare the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949.

After the reform and open-door policies, however, the east coast became the center of China, and Yan'an deteriorated into a typically impoverished and underprivileged rural town. Indeed, it was unexpected that President Hu would pay a visit to this forgotten city.

Despite constitutional provisions the chief executive has the last say in political decision making in China, and therefore Mr. Hu's visit to Yan'an has important implications. For instance, the pioneer of China's reform and open-door policy, Deng Xiaoping, spent his New Year holidays in Shanghai - the symbolic city of reform and opening - for seven consecutive years after 1988.

In Russia, the removal of Lenin's tomb is debated
In China, the Marx Project has emerged


Today's China is a capitalist society in almost all respects except for the political governance of the Communist Party. It is commonly understood that China, ranked last year as the world's 5th largest economy, is really more capitalistic than any capitalist country, while outwardly claiming to be a socialist nation.

Therefore, Marxism-Leninism, the dominant political philosophy in China for the thirty years since the establishment of the PRC in 1949, has practically been abolished.

As can be gathered from his visit to Yan'an, the symbolic site of the Chinese socialist revolution, on New Year's Day, President Hu is at work on something that appears outdated at first glance: the Project on the Foundation and Establishment of Marxism. The Project is sponsored by the government of China, much like the well-known Northeast Asia Project.

While Russians are debating whether Lenin's grave should be relocated from Red Square in Moscow to his hometown and his remains conventionally reinterred there, China seems to want to revert to the past.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) decided to launch the "Marx Project" in January 2004. After convening preliminary conferences, the CPC officially established the Research Institute of Marxism under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on December 26, 2005, the birthday of Mao Zedong, thus expediting implementation of the Marx Project.

Directly guided by the Political Bureau of the CPC

The headquarters of the CPC exercises direct supervision of the Marx Project, and so the scope of the Project is tremendous. The Propaganda Department of the headquarters of the CPC is in charge of day-to-day affairs, and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the CPC University, and the Defense University participate in the Project.

According to the Nov. 2005 issue of the weekly Ryowang Dongfang (Oriental Outlook), a magazine specializing in current political affairs in China, approximately 300 researchers are currently engaged in the Project, and about 20 conferences have already been convened.

Just last year 20 million Yuan (U.S.$2.5 million) was invested in the Project. According to the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, the Government of China plans to assign 3,000 man-days and invest between 100 and 200 million Yuan (U.S.$12.4 - 24.8 million). The Marx Project is designed to be a 10-year plan, and the Project results will be summarized and publicized every three years.

Karl Marx
The Director of the Research Institute for Marxism, Leninism, and Mao Zedong Thought at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Li Chungfu, said that such a huge research project on Marxism is unprecedented in the history of the Communist Party of China.

Five Main Goals

The first goal is to enhance research on Sino-Marxist theory, including Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Thought and on the "Three Represents" Theory.

The "Three Represents" Theory was introduced in 2001 by Jiang Zemin, then president of China. According to this theory, the Communist Party of China must stand for the requirements of the development of China's advanced productive forces; the orientation of the development of China's advanced culture; and the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people in China.

The second goal is to accomplish a new translation of the works of Marx and Lenin. Based on the internationally recognized Marx-Engels Collected Works, the Project is aiming at publishing the ten volumes of the Marx-Engels Collection and the five volumes of the Lenin Selection by 2007.

The third goal is to update Marxism for academia.

The fourth goal is to publish 13 volumes of textbooks for high school students; four volumes of general textbooks; three volumes of introductory theory; and six volumes of core texts. These textbooks will be first reviewed by an advisory committee and finally inspected by the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC, which consists of elite groups in China. This process clearly shows the great interest of government leaders in the Marx Project.

After publishing the first thirteen texts, publication will be expanded to 140-150 volumes.

The fifth goal is to promote the ability to understand and the curricula for Marxist studies, targeting young theorists, scholars, reporters, and editors.

The Marx Project is an ideological prescription in response to the serious problems arising from income inequality.

The Vice Secretary-General of the Translation and Editing Bureau of China (the special agency for translation), Yang Jinhai, explained that the prime goals of this Project are research into basic Marxist theory, the compilation of high school textbooks, and the practice of Marxism in the real world.

He said that incidents and problems after the reform and opening were caused by people's uneven comprehension of Marxism. Mr. Yang pointed out that people in universities have read only western versions of the collected works of Marx without guidance from the Party, resulting in much confusion.

The Director of the Research Institute, Li Chungfu, said that traditional Marxism-Leninism is not opposed to either Deng Xiaoping Thought or the "Three Represents" Theory. He stressed, "People should recognize that traditional Marxism-Leninism is a basis of Deng Xiaoping Thought."

Chung Infu, a professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, challenged the assertion that Marxism is outdated and said that he was confident in using Marxism in responding to all current problems.

Marxism as an ideological salve to inequality

Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin considered "building national wealth" as a top policy priority. They believed that once some classes and regions gained wealth, others would benefit.

While building wealth, however, income gaps and inequality between different classes and regions became extreme. President Hu, who took over the reins of the Party, the military, and the government in 2004, focuses on building a "society of harmony" and solving the problems of inequality.

The 770 million-person farm population, which was 60 percent of the total population of 1.29 billion in 2003, poses serious problems. According to the 2003 statistics of the National Census Bureau of China, the average annual income was 2,622 Yuan ($325) in rural areas and 8,472 Yuan ($1,052) in cities. It is commonly believed that the actual gap between rural and urban areas is even larger than this official figure.

It is still unclear, however, if the Marx Project can be effective in practice. New leftist groups in China accuse the CPC of being a party for the wealthy. They criticize that the CPC plan for an egalitarian society is merely a "political gesture" in order to temporarily defuse social unrest.
Hu Jintao (left) and Jiang Zemin meeting before the 16th National People's Congress in 2002
©2006 Yonhap News Agency

"A strategy to get rid of Jiang Zemin and the Shanghai Clique"

Some media in the Chinese speaking-world see the Marx Project as a strategic run-up to get rid of Jiang Zemin's political influence.

Indeed, Jiang's "Three Represents" Theory abandons orthodox Marxism, which sees the communist party as "the composition of the most advanced elements in the proletarian class." The "Three Represents" is understood as an effort to transition the CPC into a developmental dictatorial party such as the Republican Party or the Democratic Justice Party in Korea in the past.

Therefore, while talking positively about the "Three Represents," Hu Jintao may, in fact, be trying to eliminate the influence of Jiang Zemin and the Shanghai Clique.

In any case it is clear that President Hu is taking an increasingly different path from the expectations of the Western world. When he became the top leader of China in 2004, Western media and intellectuals hastily anticipated that the young and energetic Hu Jintao would try liberal reforms such as a multiparty system, moving further away from socialism.

The Marx Project, however, reveals the expectations of the Western world as an illusory view of Chinese political developments.
This article originally appeared in Korean.
©2006 OhmyNews

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