Karl Marx is “the greatest thinker of modern times,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping Friday during a speech in Beijing.
The speech was part of a week-long program honoring the 200th anniversary of German philosopher Karl Marx’s birth in 1818.
“Writing Marxism onto the flag of the Chinese Communist Party was totally correct,” said Xi, who recently celebrated the 170th anniversary of The Communist Manifesto.
Celebrating Karl Marx and his ideologies is a way for Xi to promote the CPC and to distinguish China from Western capitalism, but it is also a way to defend against those who oppose his recent moves to consolidate power.
“Marx and Lenin…are useful for Xi Jinping because their teachings justify what he is doing - namely, concentrating all powers in the Communist Party and concentrating all powers in the top leader himself,” explains Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese policy who teaches at the City University in Hong Kong. “Most ordinary Chinese have zero interest in Marxism or Leninism.”
Since 2012, Xi has amassed more power than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. He effectively became president for life in March when the National People’s Congress voted to abolish presidential term limits. Xi also leads the Chinese military and the Communist Party (neither position has a term limit).
Xi is often compared to Chairman Mao, but unlike Mao, Xi rules China in the age of technology.
Under Xi’s leadership, China has transformed into a virtual (if not actual) surveillance state where the ruling CPC has control over 20 million cameras and the databases of big tech companies. The Chinese government uses these resources to watch and rank citizens on their behavior. Those with a low “social credit score” can be banned from using trains and planes. Those who cross streets improperly are identified by facial recognition cameras positioned above stoplights.
While China’s last three presidents eschewed the economic ideals of communism in favor of “opening up,” it is painfully clear where Xi stands.
Xi on Friday touted "socialism" as necessary in order to achieve the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation." Earlier this year, he urged party members to view Marxist theories as a “way of life” and a “spiritual pursuit.”
Xi is also pushing for new policies that would give the Communist Party more control over big tech firms. This is on top of a controversial law that requires foreign tech companies to utilize Chinese companies for their services and to store Chinese user data in China. In February, Apple handed Beijing control over all Chinese iCloud accounts (including the keys to unlock those accounts).
“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," says Jude Blanchette, who leads the Chinese sector at an advisory firm in Washington.
Xi on Friday praised Marx as the “teacher of revolution for the proletariat and working people all over the world," but did not mention income equality.
China is a country where about 10-15% of the population enjoy a capitalist economic boom. The rest live on about $2 a day (up from $1 thanks to a recent boom). Xi credits socialism for this boom, but we have seen too many times how socialism can destroy a country.
China has a political and economic structure that cannot sustain itself, but they are gaining more and more power.
In recent years we have watched the total economic collapse in socialist Venezuela, a country that has about 31 million people. Just think of the global ramifications should this same catastrophe occur in a country of 1.3 billion.