Maybe Karl Marx and Confucius They lived 2,400 years apart, but on Chinese state television they walk together through an ancient Chinese academy. In a sun-drenched bamboo grove, a group of painting students invite the two philosophers to be their models. While the young people paint, Marx and Confucius they chat. They are impressed, among other things, by the high-speed trains of China. When the portraits are discovered, thinkers are surprised. Marx appears in a dynasty robe Tang; Confucius, with a western suit and tie. But they are both delighted. “I have been in China for more than a hundred years“, says Marx (in Mandarin). “Actually, I have been Chinese for a long time.”. Confucius He laughs, stroking his beard. The long hair looks a little strange with the suit, she says, but it makes sense to change it up.
The scene belongs to “When Marx met Confucius”, a television series created by the propaganda department of the province of Hunan and released in October. It’s not popular. In Doubana movie website, has only received a hundred reviews, most of them negative (for example, “It makes me sick“). But for those who can stand it, the show is a good way to understand the Xi Jinping Thought on Culturethe latest branch of the Chinese leader’s philosophy.
Other parts of the thought of Xi emphasize stricter control of the Communist Party on aspects such as diplomacy, defense and economy. He Xi Jinping’s Cultural Thought, announced in October, attempts to fuse pride in Chinese tradition with loyalty to the party. Its most important principle is the “two combinations,” which in party parlance refers to a decades-long process of making Marxism more Chinese. The first refers to the first efforts to adapt Marxism to the “specific reality” of China. This ideological flexibility allowed Deng Xiaopingthe previous Chinese leader, carried out economic reforms in the 1980s. The second is the idea of Xi: sinicize Marxism by fusing it with traditional Chinese culture.
The effort represents the culmination of a radical shift for the party, which once considered tradition its enemy. During the Cultural Revolution from 1966-76, the Mao Zedong’s Red Guards They destroyed Confucian temples, burned Confucian texts and desecrated the tomb of the sages. Young people denounced their elders, contradicting Confucianism’s emphasis on filial piety. But after the death of mao In 1976, the party approached Confuciusor at least to a simplified version of his teachings that emphasizes deference to authority. Deng allowed public celebrations of the philosopher’s birthday. Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintaosuccessors of Deng, they appropriated Confucian ideas. In the early 2000s, Chinese scholars debated whether Confucianism could even replace Marxism as the guiding ideology of China.
Xi is putting an end to that debate. Marxism is the “soul” and Confucianism the “root” of Chinese culture, he says. Neither of the two ideologies can be abandoned. On the contrary, they must be merged.
“When Marx met Confucius” guides viewers through this new thinking. For much of the five episodes, the philosophers sit on a stage in front of students and a rotating cast of academics and party officials. A young woman dressed in hanfuthe traditional costume, plays in the background a guzheng, the ancient zither. Philosophers converse with holograms of figures such as Vladimir Lenin and mao, which explain the compatibility of their thinking. Below, the show’s hosts explain how it all fits into the Xi Jinping Thought.
The program ignores the major differences between Confuciuswho believed that hierarchies were necessary to maintain social order, and Marx, who advocated a proletarian revolution. “You were trying to maintain stability and I was looking for the liberation of all humanity“, says Marx. “But don’t we both seek the highest good for all humans?”. When Marx mentions his vision of a classless society, Confucius says that it has a comparable concept called datong (great unit). “So we have a lot of similarities!“, says Confucius. The students applaud.
It is mentioned once Cultural Revolution. Did “great damage” says one host. But he doesn’t blame himself mao. At one point his spirit appears, assuring Marx and Confucius who was a faithful communist and defender of traditional Chinese culture. Confucius nods his head.
The program spends more time attacking West. Host blames foreign harassment China in the 19th century of a “long-term cultural inferiority complex” (exacerbated by Chinese intellectuals, who at that time claimed that the traditions of China made her weak). The first era of reforms, in the 80s, is remembered as a dangerous period of “historical nihilism”, in which Western ideas led the Chinese to criticize their society and government. “Can a country become strong if its economy develops but its spirit is lost?”the presenter asks, quoting Xi.
The implicit answer is no. The program claims that it is good that Xi regain confidence in China. Not only that, but he and the party pursue the common good throughout the world, in contrast to the wretched Western countries. USA exports cluster bombs, while Japan dumps nuclear wastewater into ocean, says presenter. Chinaa “responsible great power“I would never do such things,” he adds. Marx This impressed O.O. Congratulate China for revitalizing socialism and realizing his vision.
“When Marx met Confucius” is easy to ridicule, but parts of its message are worrying. In the last episode, a student asks for advice Confucius about Taiwanthe autonomous island that claims China. “We have a traditional culture of peace, but some Western countries only believe in the law of the jungle”says the student. “If they intimidate us or hinder our national unification, should we continue talking to them about peace?”. Confucius frowns. Kindness must be met with goodness, but hate must be met with justice, he says. A host intervenes. China He seeks peace, but if his dignity and interests are harmed, he will use military force to achieve national unification, he says. Images of fighters and warships fill the screen.
© 2023, The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved.