Thursday, June 28, 2007

Communism Held In Contempt By Chinese Students

While we fight a new struggle against Islamism, it's nice to take a break for one of those articles that provides a little victory lap celebrating the defeat of Communism. This article looks at the still-mandatory classes on Marxism in Chinese schools—and the boredom and contempt they evoke in students.

On a more serious note, observe that everyone admits that the collapse of Marxism leaves the Chinese state with no ideological foundation. And on a more ominous note, observe the attempts to adopt environmentalism as a replacement for Communism—following the lead of the Western left.

But a more hopeful note comes, inadvertently, from an education ministry official who says of China's young people, "They don't believe in God or communism. They're practical. They only worship the money." Unfortunately, too few young Chinese know that capitalism, properly understood, represents a philosophy and a benevolent moral code—and that this is the new ideological foundation China needs.

"Marx Loses Currency in New China," Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times, June 26 Professor Tao Xiuao cracked jokes, told stories, projected a Power Point presentation on a large video screen. But his students at Beijing Foreign Studies University didn't even try to hide their boredom.

Young men spread newspapers out on their desks and pored over the sports news. A couple of students listened to iPods; others sent text messages on their cellphones. One young woman with chic red-framed glasses spent the entire two hours engrossed in "Jane Eyre," in the original English. Some drifted out of class, ate lunch and returned. Some just lay their heads on their desktops and went to sleep.

It isn't easy teaching Marxism in China these days….

"It's not the teacher," said sophomore Liu Di, a finance major whose shaggy auburn hair hangs, John Lennon-style, along either side of his wire-rim glasses. "No matter who teaches this class, it's always boring. Philosophy is useful and interesting, but I think that in philosophy education in China, they just teach the boring parts."

Classes in Marxist philosophy have been compulsory in Chinese schools since not long after the 1949 communist revolution….

It seems an understatement to say that there's a disconnect between reality and what the students are learning about Marx and Mao, who held that capitalism would inevitably and naturally give way to communism.

"Compared to my normal opinions about the world…it's something like fiction," said Du Zimu, one of Liu's classmates….

Daniel A. Bell, a Canadian who is the first Westerner in the modern era to teach politics at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China's most elite educational institution, wrote in the spring issue of Dissent magazine of his surprise at how little Marxism is actually discussed in China, even among Communist Party intellectuals.

"The main reason Chinese officials and scholars do not talk about communism is that hardly anybody really believes that Marxism should provide guidelines for thinking about China's political future," he wrote. "The ideology has been so discredited by its misuses that it has lost almost all legitimacy in society…. To the extent there's a need for a moral foundation for political rule in China, it almost certainly won't come from Karl Marx."…

"The students I know generally don't accept Marx as the best ideological foundation for modern China," said one student at a prestigious Chinese university. "Marx in China is only a flag used by different kinds of persons. Then, what is the ideological foundation for modern China? I think no one can give a satisfied answer."…

[At] a model junior high school in Beijing,…students are participating in a pilot program to learn the fundamentals of environmentalism, as part of a "values" class that used to contain a strong dose of Marxist ideology.

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