Newspaper article International New York Times

A Challenge in Trying to Sell Marxism

Newspaper article International New York Times

A Challenge in Trying to Sell Marxism

Article excerpt

The Communist state is trying anew to make people really care about the German philosopher's ideas in China, where interest has been waning for decades.

In an overgrown, 1950s courtyard at Peking University that will soon be knocked down to make way for a building dedicated to the life and works of Karl Marx, Mr. Guo shared his views on China's official ideology.

"The way I see it, it doesn't actually matter if you are socialist or capitalist," said Mr. Guo, a safety instructor for laborers employed by the university, who gave only his surname, as is common here. "It's all cycles of knowledge and material goods. Knowledge turns into goods and goods turn into knowledge. And in the end, the government taxes you."

Mr. Guo's unorthodox take on Marxism points to a persistent challenge that the Communist state is trying anew to address: how to make people really care about the German philosopher's ideas in China, where interest has been waning for decades.

In 2004, the Communist Party, concerned that the wrong Western values, such as liberalism and capitalism, were surging into China and determined to preserve the right one, announced a "Marx Project" to bolster research and teaching of Marxism across the country.

Now Peking University has gone five better and announced its own "Six Marx Projects." In addition to the new building, these will include the establishment of a voluminous "Marx Collection." This will bring together writings and documents on the history of Marxism in China from its introduction more than a century ago, as well as a compilation of all of Marx's writings and related international materials. These two parts of the collection will be completed by 2024 and 2035, said Sun Daiyao, associate dean of the School of Marxism at Peking University.

President Xi Jinping is eager to reinvigorate Marxism in China, making it important that the collection outshine the university's Confucius Collection, Mr. Sun said in an interview.

"The Marx Collection must be bigger than the Confucian Collection," he said. "That cost 152 million renminbi," or $24 million. "So the Marx Collection will cost more than 152 million. …

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