It is hard to interest Chinese in Marxism
IT was like watching a man try to swim up a waterfall.China is more a state capitalist society now. What is interesting is the lack of interest in Marx. Hopefully someday the same thing will happen in American universities.
Professor Tao Xiuao cracked jokes, told stories, projected a Power Point presentation on a large video screen. But his students at Beijing Foreign Studies University didn't even try to hide their boredom.
Young men spread newspapers out on their desks and pored over the sports news. A couple of students listened to iPods; others sent text messages on their cellphones. One young woman with chic red-framed glasses spent the entire two hours engrossed in "Jane Eyre," in the original English. Some drifted out of class, ate lunch and returned. Some just lay their heads on their desktops and went to sleep.
It isn't easy teaching Marxism in China these days.
"It's a big challenge," acknowledged Tao, a likable man who demonstrates remarkable patience in the face of students more interested in capitalism than "Das Kapital." The students say he isn't the problem.
"It's not the teacher," said sophomore Liu Di, a finance major whose shaggy auburn hair hangs, John Lennon-style, along either side of his wire-rim glasses. "No matter who teaches this class, it's always boring. Philosophy is useful and interesting, but I think that in philosophy education in China, they just teach the boring parts."
Classes in Marxist philosophy have been compulsory in Chinese schools since not long after the 1949 communist revolution. They remain enshrined in the national education law, Article 3 of which states: "In developing the socialist educational undertakings, the state shall uphold Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tse-tung Thought and the theories of constructing socialism with Chinese characteristics as directives and comply with the basic principles of the Constitution."
But today's China is, in some respects, less socialistic than much of Western Europe, with a moth-eaten social safety net and a wild free-market economy. Students in almost any urban Chinese school can look out their classroom windows and see just about everything but socialism being constructed: high-rise office buildings, shopping malls, movie theaters, luxury apartment buildings, fast-food restaurants, hotels, factories — the whole capitalist panorama.