Scholars in China Criticize Western Economic Brainwashing

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

According to a group of Chinese scholars, Chinese students are “being brainwashed by western economic theories.” The academics sent an official letter to the Ministry of Education insisting that the ruling communist party in Beijing should push more Marxism in the university’s economics curriculum in the upcoming fall.

The prominent academic leaders ask for colleges to reinstate a 50/50 mix of Marxist theories and western economics in the next academic year. He Ganqiang, a retired economics professor at The Nanjing University of Finance and Economics, who co-authored the petition, commented that the infiltration of western economic thought was one of the reasons that the Soviet Union collapsed.

The scholars claimed that the increased Marxist content into the economics courses would prevent “the brainwashing” of students and would keep the local business education in the socialist direction, reports R. Williams of the Newsmax.

China has been launching market-oriented reforms since the late 1970s and consequently abandoned the Marxist central economic planning. However, the letter does not mention anything about the German background of Karl Marx as well as his experience in the United Kingdom.

Asked for comment, Ha-Joon Chang, an economics professor at Cambridge University, said:

“Marxist economics has shaped the world economy. The architects of the East Asian economic miracles in Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan were all schooled in Marxist economics, which sees industrialization as a way of generating a surplus.”

The academics’ intervention comes at a time when there is broader political backlash and dissatisfaction against western influence in domestic education. Chinese Minister of Education Yuan Guiren claimed last year that textbooks promoting Western values were not welcome in China’s classrooms, writes Yuan Yang of NBC. Furthermore, while giving a speech in April, the Chinese President urged the universities to modernize Marxism to boost China’s economic development.

Beijing is currently struggling with rising debt and an economic slowdown. The Chinese government is actively trying to push supply-side reforms that have been approved by analysts mirroring the policies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan of the 1980s.

The most prestigious departments of economics, such as Beijing University’s China Center for Economics Research, have adopted Western curricula to prepare their students qualify for admission in top economics programs in the USA and Europe. At the same time, Marxism courses are obligatory in local universities for undergraduate students.

Renmin University, known for producing politicians and civil servants, even has a dedicated department with staff specialized in translating American economics textbooks into Chinese. As FT reported, according to recent research by the Institute of International Education more than 300,000 Chinese students came to the US in 2014-15, a 10 percent rise from the year before.

The call of Marxist influence is not limited only to China. Until the late 1980s, it was natural for the Department of Economics of the Ivy League Institutions such as Stanford or Harvard to have one or more scholars that were followers of the Marxist theories. However, upon their retirement, they largely have not been replaced.