WHY does Marxism thrive in China and not in Marx’s birthplace? Why is Buddhism more practiced in East Asia than in India? Why does Islam have more followers outside of Saudi Arabia?
Ideas and religion have spread through globalization, but it is really their localization that has created more believers and followers.
What has succeeded is not globalization, but glocalization, the internalization of universal ideas and beliefs by the greatest number, and not just by a few.
Few in the West see the irony of a supposedly closed China celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), when communism was born but essentially rejected in the West.
What was there in Marx that resonated with Chinese civilization which prided itself on its own ancient and enduring philosophy?
London School of Economics Emeritus Professor Megnai Desai, writing on “Marx’s Revenge,” made the insightful observation that the Chinese revolution in the 20th century was very different from the French and American revolutions in the 18th century.
The French Revolution was a domestic rebellion against the land monarchy and nobility, while the American Revolution was a rebellion against British foreign rule.
Both created republics and preached equality, liberty and liberty, but both created empires, one by conquering lands from native Indians and Mexico, and the other through the sacking of Napoleon. in Europe.
The Chinese revolution was different because it was simultaneously a struggle against the foreign invasion (Japanese and the former Alliance of Eight Nations) as well as against the nationalist government which favored the capitalist and landed classes.
The CCP won because it represented the rural peasantry, rather than adopting the Comintern’s strategy of launching the revolution from the cities. In short, the CCP localized universal communism to Chinese characteristics. It was practical rather than ideological.
When the Qing Dynasty fell in 1911, Chinese thinkers grappled with what would replace the old order.
The country has fallen into the warlord. The Nationalist Party under Sun Yat-sen struggled to balance the conservative wing which represented landowners and capitalists, and the left wing influenced by communism and socialism. Chinese revolutionaries closely followed the Russian Revolution in 1917, as it was then the most recent model of social transformation. The Chinese elite understood that rebuilding China from the collapse of the old order was a monumental task. The country was backward and the uneducated masses were not prepared for modernity, vulnerable to foreign conquest.
Even though they felt the weight of the story, they also understood that there was no parallel in the story on the scale of the Chinese transformation.
The Chinese left adopted Marxist thought because Marx gave both a historical and political economic perspective on the evolution of capitalism, as well as a philosophical tool in terms of Hegelian dialectics.
Marx used the deep ideas of the Prussian philosopher Hegel that transformations come from contradictions of opposites, in which change will not occur in a straight line, but by revolution or discontinuity.
Marx’s discovery of dialectical materialism – in all, the contradiction and interplay between opposites leads to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new – was music to the ears of those seeking a path to China. new.
Moreover, the basic ideas of the dialectic were very similar to the Chinese yin-yang philosophy of I Ching and Dao Dejing. As Lenin said, “Dialectics is the study of the contradiction in the very essence of things. Development is the struggle of opposites.
To have theory is one thing, but to put those ideas into practice is another. We can only appreciate China’s miraculous transformation from a backward economy to the world’s second largest economy by understanding that it has been done through essentially three sayings: “seek truth from facts”, ” cross the river touching the stones “and it doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.
In other words, make decisions based on facts, always try or test with uncertainty, and most importantly, be practical and have an open mind. Change is a process between conflicting contradictions. There is no such thing as absolute black and white.
Historian Ray Huang, one of the best Sinologists of his generation and former nationalist soldier, wrote in the preface to his classic “China: A Macro-History”: “Chinese history differs from the history of others peoples and other parts of the world. because of an important factor: its immense multitudes.
In imperial times, as in the very recent past, practical problems had to be translated into abstract notions in order to be disseminated.
In turn, at the local level, the message again had to be rendered in everyday language. “
It was the reduction of very complicated policies into plain language that the Chinese people needed to understand and own that enabled them to embrace the transformation, despite the enormous sacrifices at the individual and community levels. The eyes of the people are clearer than those of the elites.
The US-China rivalry has done the world a service by contrasting very basic worldviews. When the West preaches an order based on values and rules, it means that freedom, democracy and individual rights are absolute – essentially zero sum “my way or not.”
Globalization is interpreted as the universalization of American or European values and standards. But the fact remains that these norms and rules were historically imposed by conquest, colonization and force.
When China, Russia, India or any other country deviates or does not agree with this, then they must be contained, confronted or sanctioned. Localization or being different is almost seen as a deviance rather than a celebration of diversity.
Civilizations reach their highest levels through tolerance and openness. When they become withdrawn, fundamentalists and mono-thinkers, fragility and decadence set in.
The world is simultaneously becoming more global in terms of interconnectivity, even as regionalization, fragmentation and localization accelerate.
Glocalization, a simultaneous contradiction between global and local, is to be welcomed rather than feared.
The future will always be open, uncertain and contradictory. Such diversity is the nature of humanity.
Andrew Sheng comments on world affairs from an Asian perspective. The opinions expressed here are his own.