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Teaching of Marxism in China

By Chen Hong

In recent decades the progress of Chinese society has aroused increasing 
interest among scholars of the most diverse persuasions. A certain slackening 
in the pace of economic advance in the last few years has done little to change 
the generally robust course of development. At the same time, the stand-off 
between China and the United States in the geopolitical and economic areas has 
attracted even greater attention to the question of how the social system of 
China, the country with the world’s second-ranking economy, functions and 

It is important to stress that China’s leaders directly associate the country’s 
successes with the use of Marxist theory to solve practical problems. During 
Marx’s bicentenary year, 2018, particular attention was paid in China to the 
perspectives of Marxism as the theoretical paradigm and methodological basis 
for decisions in the field of state policy. Speaking in the Chamber of People’s 
Deputies on the eve of the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth, the leader of the 
country, Xi Jinping, emphasized that Marxism has been a key component of 
China’s economic, social, political and cultural successes. Xi’s 
one-and-a-half-hour speech devoted to Marxism has become an important element 
in the development of sociological research in this country. The Second World 
Marxist Congress, which began the following day, brought together more than a 
thousand participants and became yet another visible confirmation of the fact 
that in China the development of Marxism is receiving priority attention.

There are further facts as well that underline the important role played by 
Marxism in China, in the field of social research and also in the educational 
process. Particular evidence of this has been provided by the creation of 
faculties of Marxism — the so-called Institutes of Marxism — in China’s largest 
universities. Up to the present time more than a thousand of them have been 
established. In these institutions professional training for bachelor’s, 
master’s and doctoral degrees has been placed on a high level, and is the 
object of special attention from the country’s leadership.

A characteristic feature of the teaching of Marxism in China is the fact that 
scholars from many of the world’s countries have been drawn deliberately into 
the processes of instruction and of scholarly research. Among these scholars 
are people from the United States, Western Europe, Japan, and also post-Soviet 
Russia. One of the main texts on which the study of Marxism in China rests, 
apart from the works of Marx himself and those of Engels, Lenin, Mao Zedong and 
Xi Jinping, is the textbook An Introduction to the Basic Principles of Marxism, 
which is on the curriculum of all higher educational institutions. This 
textbook is based on the traditional logic of Marxism, which signifies a 
consistent examination of the historical setting and of the philosophical, 
political-economic and political science components of Marxism. In many 
respects the textbook is reminiscent of those published in the Soviet Union in 
the 1970s and early 1980s, during the epoch of so-called “developed socialism.” 
At the same time, it is clearly different from the Soviet textbooks and from 
previous textbooks on Marxism published in China, and it is on these 
differences, as well as on the peculiarities of this particular textbook, that 
we shall dwell hereafter. Anticipating the detailed description of the 
textbook, we would like to emphasiz that the basic textbook focuses on the 
general problems of Marxism, socialism and the communist perspective, without 
going into the details of research on various types of enterprises, 
organizations and institutions, since in modern China these are very diverse. 
These questions, as well as other more particular ones, are considered in 
numerous textbooks and support materials published by Chinese scientists.

Before proceeding to a detailed analysis of the textbook, I will characterize 
its structure and main chapters. The textbook has a fairly detailed structure, 
including an Introduction and seven chapters, each of which consists of three 
sections. Chapters 1 and 2 address issues of the materiality of the world, 
dialectics and cognition. Chapter 3 presents the laws of social development, 
while chapters 4 and 5 address the essence and trends of development of 
capitalism, and chapters 6 and 7 cover the development of socialism and 
communist ideals.

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