A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Xi Jinping in Marx’s Skin

by    /  May 14, 2018  / No comments

The author discussing a statue of Karl Marx gifted from China to the city of Trier. Image via the author.

The world is celebrating Marx’s 200th birthday. In his birthplace, Trier, a beautiful town on the Mosel riverside in southwest Germany, there are ancient remains of the Roman Empire, the Porta Nigra, the amphitheater and many other medieval castles and churches. At the site, you get a nostalgic feeling that this is a time tunnel that brings you back in European history. Yet, the city has now received a 45 meter statue of Marx from China and has set it up in the middle of all the historical architectures. Even despite the political tension, most of the citizens in Trier find that this monstrous bronze figure does not match the aesthetic or artistic taste of our time.

For months, there has been a controversial discussion in Germany: to be or not to be? To accept or not accept the donation from China? That is the question. “A Poisonous Gift” was the title of a panel discussion organized by the Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen Memorial museum on April 9th in Trier, where I was invited with historians and politicians. Among the 4 panelists, only the Trier vice-mayor was protecting the decision of his city government, which was that the statue should be erected since it will attract more tourists from China and animate more cultural exchange. Indeed, Trier welcomes over 50 thousand visitors from China yearly, and with Marx made in China, the city expects a new wave of tourism. But most Asian guests come with just with their cameras, take pictures, buy some souvenirs, and that’s it.

  1. Blind Chess, a column by Tienchi Martin-Liao
  2. During the Cultural Revolution, people were sentenced to death or outright murdered because of one wrong sentence. In China today writers do not lose their lives over their poems or articles; however, they are jailed for years. My friend Liu Xiaobo for example will stay in prison til 2020; even winning the Nobel Peace Prize could not help him. In prison those lucky enough not to be sentenced to hard labor play “blind chess” to kill time AND TO TRAIN THE BRAIN NOT TO RUST. Freedom of expression is still a luxury in China. The firewall is everywhere, yet words can fly above it and so can our thoughts. My column, like the blind chess played by prisoners, is an exercise to keep our brains from rusting and the situation in China from indifference.
  3. Tienchi Martin-Liao
  4. Tienchi Martin-Liao is the president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. Previously she worked at the Institute for Asian Affairs in Hamburg, Germany, and lectured at the Ruhr-University Bochum from 1985 to 1991. She became head of the Richard-Wilhelm Research Center for Translation in 1991 until she took a job in 2001 as director of the Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) to work on human rights issues. She was at LRF until 2009. Martin-Liao has served as deputy director of the affiliated China Information Center and was responsible for updating the Laogai Handbook and working on the Black Series, autobiographies of Chinese political prisoners, and other human rights books. She was elected president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center in October 2009 and has daily contact with online journalists in China.

There was a common perception that the great philosopher Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” of 1848, and later “The Capital,” have been abused and thus provide the tyrants with the theoretical foundation to build up their communist regime. Although one panelist Dieter Dombrowski, vice chairman of Brandenburg parliament, pointed out that Marx was not misunderstood in those socialist countries, saying that his ideologies such as “class struggle” and “no separation of powers” were instructions and codes of practice for the dictatorial regimes, he criticized Marx shapely for his anti-Semitism, which Marx expressed in his work “Zur Judenfrage” (On the Jewish Question) in 1843.

The historian Dr. Hubertus Knabe criticized Marx for his radical thinking, intolerance, and brutality throughout his work, the violent revolution, the wipe-out of various socioeconomic classes, the dictatorship of the proletariat, etc. All these thoughts deliver spiritual nutrition for the ambitious rulers like Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Zedong, who became mass murderers in their countries. Marx was racist too. He called the Breton people and the Basque people, “Völkerabfälle,” which means waste of people. This is of course totally unacceptable. However, can we blame a thinker of 19th century for all the crimes that have been committed in the 20th century under his theory? Again, that’s the question.

Mao Zedong was a fanatic fundamentalist of Marxism, moreover he believed firmly in the “permanent revolution” theory of Marx and launched one political campaign after the other. Mao wrote to his wife Jiang Qing on July 8th, 1966: “From the big chaos to total orderly governance, every seven or eight years the monsters and freaks will jump out.”

This means that the Communist Party is alert, with the permanent revolution. It will eliminate the hostile forces of the “monsters and freaks.” Neither Mao nor his party have ever given a clear definition of who those monsters and freaks are. According to the anti-rightist campaign in the 1950s, the intellectuals are those “bad elements” who must be sorted out and sent to the desert. “Religion is the opium for the people”– Mao loved this sentence, therefore freedom of religion was prohibited. Hundreds and thousands of Buddhist monks and nuns as well as Christian professionals were wiped out of the temples and churches as soon as Chinese Communism had seized power in Chinese Mainland in 1949. Till his death in 1976, over 40 million Chinese people alone died, and during the Great Famine in 1958-1961, over 36 million people starved. Marx would not find peace in his grave if he knew what kind of crimes have been committed in China alone under his name.

Xi Jinping and Karl Marx. Image via the author.

Today, the newly baptized emperor in China, Xi Jinping, is still holding the Marx banner high. On the May 5th ceremony of Marx’s birthday, Xi said: “Marx is a millennium thinker,” “China shall follow firmly and develop Marxism to build a great socialist country with Chinese character.” Nowadays, China is practicing Manchester Capitalism, which is cruel and brutal. Employees are deprived of rights that are written in the Labor Law; there is no true labor union, and the unemployment benefits are so vague that needy people can hardly count on them. The “Chinese dream” that Xi boasts about to his countrymen is so abstract. China must be “big and strong.” What has this dream to do with common people, who worry about their daily existence? The polluted air, the poisonous food, the fake medicine– “the weak are meat and the strong do eat”– the jungle law rules Chinese society, not Marx’s communism. However, if Xi’s personal dream does come true, then the constitutional change through the People’s Congress in March will have secured his lifetime presidency. He will have become the most powerful leader of China since Mao. His smiling face emerges in every corner of the country. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, Xi in Marx’s skin. Will the Mao-Xi specter continue to haunt China in the decades to come? What a horrible vision!

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