China has a moral crisis but the solution is already there

3 min read

Two interesting articles on China’ economic development, one on Sept 26 and another on Aug 24, deserve a good read as they coincidentally draw our attention to the Marxist background of the current Socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Douglas Bulloch of Forbes, while commenting negatively on a Financial Times article which “was about how backward Donald Trump’s America was becoming, and how forward looking and adventurous China is by contrast”, highlights something not good in China.

It quotes Christopher Hitchens’ point that “the committed leftist lost his innocence and … that the project he had been defending for years was, in fact, rather worse than he imagined.”

Another one, written by Roger Garside who is a former First Secretary of the British Embassy in Beijing, gives an emotional portrait of various socio-cultural problems behind the economic success in China after his recent visit to Beijing (53 meetings in 30 days).

Although I disagree with some of their points, for example I never see brain drain a problem as according to my experience and an old Chinese idiom that their departure provides space for the talented young to move upward faster thus making mobility fluid, I agree with them that there is a ‘moral crisis’ in China as this nation appears to be becoming farther away from Marxism.

China is great and can be great for long time, in my opinion, is because it has a Marxist past. Yes, I admit it, Marxism is not practical enough to motivate innovation, growth and alike, but it serves as a reminder to the elitist leaders (I name them as the ‘Helmsman Rulers’) that they are obligated to undertake two duties. One is to help the poor for which the Chinese leaders are doing well by working hard to eradicate poverty by 2020 and upgrade the whole nation to the ‘XiaoKang Society’ (an ancient Chinese ideal) or ‘moderately prosperous society’ by the end of this century.

Another task … no, I am not talking about equality or distributive justice, is that the leaders must always remind themselves and the general public of the ancient wisdom that each of us in general and the wealthy in particular has a moral duty to ‘self-discipline’.

The emphasis of this self-discipline, which is common among Confucianism, Taoism and Legalism, is that a man has to know how far he should go and where he must stop (行當行之行,止當止之止) . Some of the most powerful politicians (e.g. former President Hu) and wealthy tycoons in China have shown this ‘self-discipline’. However, some have not, and it is why a moral crisis is here.

I remain optimistic because, as what Garside said in his article that people he met in Beijing are aware of this loss of soul, this very simple idiom is well known to the educated all over China. Self-overcoming is not difficult by having this mind and perhaps it is the correct way to understand the main concern of Karl Marx about humanity, and the right way to make China’s peaceful rise workable.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail

Tony Simon

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