Kuora: China’s ideological ‘war’ with the U.S.?

Karl Marx, whose ideas greatly shaped China (and is greatly influencing China’s top leader as we speak), turned 200 on Saturday. What better way to honor this ideologue than with Kaiser answering a question, originally posted to Quora on December 4, 2017, on the clash of ideas:

When did China declare ideological war on America?

If you’re talking about the aggressive efforts aimed at the teaching of “universal values” in Chinese institutes of higher education, and at instilling tighter Party orthodoxy, I think the best date to name would be July 2012, when the so-called Document Number Nine was first published.

That document lays out seven “noteworthy problems,” six of which are quite clearly associated with Western liberalism (and with its chief standard-bearer, the United States). Those include Western constitutional democracy, universal values, civil society, neoliberalism (i.e., unrestrained capitalism), Western-style journalism (i.e., an adversarial, free press), and historical nihilism (i.e., denial of the official CPC interpretation of history). There’s only one that’s really aimed at thought that’s to the “left” of current CPC orthodoxy.

I don’t think this quite qualifies as “ideological war,” in part because the document was only intended to be read within the higher ranks of the Party, and was leaked by a journalist (who was subsequently given a prison sentence). Declarations of war aren’t usually made surreptitiously.

I would also note that correctly or not, Beijing sees itself as having been attacked first: There’s a staunch belief that the forces of liberal interventionism (or liberal hegemonism) have used these six “noteworthy” tactics to try to undermine the Party and bring about regime change. It sees things like the U.S. State Department’s alleged support for Google beginning in January 2010 as well as alleged support, if only tacit, for a “Jasmine Revolution” in China that was rumored in February 2011, during the Arab Spring, as evidence for this.

Kuora is a weekly column.