Fundamental to that debate is a renewed interest in Marxism. This has become an important element of the Chinese discourse (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here) and elsewhere (e.g., here). "Xi, who is also the state president, called on academics and party ideologues to focus equally on absorbing Marxist classics and adapting the theory to contemporary conditions" (XI JINPING: Marxism must be remade for the 21st century). That notion of absorption and adaptation appears to be fundamental to contemporary Chinese political theory. Xi Jinping has been quoted as noting: "It is perfectly right for history and the people to choose Marxism, as well as for the CPC to write Marxism on its own flag, to adhere to the principle of combining the fundamental principles of Marxism with China's reality, and continuously adapt Marxism to the Chinese context and the times." (Marx's theory still shines with truth: Xi).
On July 10, 2018, Zheng Yongnian (郑永年), Professor and Director of East Asian Institute of National University of Singapore, published an important contribution to that debate: Is Marxism Really Revitalized in China? 郑永年：马克思主义在中国真的复兴了吗？ The essay touches on the now much more complicated issue of resistance to Westernization within a political system that itself has roots very much in the West. The essay considers the sinification of Marxism during the three contemporary historical periods of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and lastly in the "New Era" of Xi Jinping. These he considers matters not merely of pure theory of of its authenticity through practical application. This is a critical and quite innovative element in the characterization of the naturalization of a complex and dynamic ideological system within an equally complex and dynamic culture. Sinification, here, speaks to its practical expression--an expression peculiar to the era in which it is operationalized--a form of historical form of "seeking truth form facts" (实事求是). The analysis is particularly relevant for its astute description of the dynamic evolution of Chinese engagement with Marxism, and its practical manifestation. These moved from reception to utopianism, to doctrinization, to elitism, and lastly to institutionalization.
If the major task of Marxism sinification in Mao’s era is to seize the political power and maintain national unification and the major task of Marxism sinification in Deng’s era is to get rid of poverty and develop the economy, then the major task of Marxism sinification in the new era is institution building and state governance.
Both the English translation and the original Chinese version appear below. The original text--马克思主义在中国真的复兴了吗？--was first published in Chinese on Zaobao (联合早报) July 10th 2018. The English translation is the work of my excellent research assistant Dai Maioqiang (戴妙强) (Penn State School of International Affairs MIA expected 2019). Both versions are posted with permission. We welcome comments and engagement.
Professor Zheng received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Beijing University, and his Ph.D. at Princeton University. He was a recipient of Social Science Research Council-MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (1995-1997) and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (2003-2004). He was Professor and founding Research Director of the China Policy Institute, the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom.
He is Editor of Series on Contemporary China (World Scientific Publishing) and Editor of China Policy Series (Routledge). He is also the editor of China: An International Journal and East Asian Policy.
He has studied both China’s domestic transformation and its external relations. His papers have appeared in internationally referred journals such as Comparative Political Studies, Political Science Quarterly, Third World Quarterly and China Quarterly. He is the author of a few dozens of books, including Contemporary China, The Chinese Communist Party as Organizational Emperor, Technological Empowerment, De Facto Federalism in China, Discovering Chinese Nationalism in China and Globalization and State Transformation in China, and editor of many books on China and its foreign relations including the latest volumes China Entering the Xi Era (2014), China and the New International Order (2008), and China and International Relations (2010).
Besides his research work, Professor Zheng has also been an academic activist. He served as a consultant to United Nation Development Programme on China’s rural development and democracy. He has also been advising the Chinese government at different levels on various areas of reform and development. In addition, he has been a columnist for Xinbao (Hong Kong) and Zaobao (Singapore) for many years, writing numerous commentaries on China’s domestic and international affairs.