Delusions will backfire. Just wait.

Paul Mason, the left-wing British journalist, has an excellent piece in The Guardian: “There is no place in academia for craven submission to Chinese censorship demands.”

I have three comments to make – here, because I’m late for the comments section. It’s already closed.

I write this in full knowledge that it will be read, amid resurgent Chinese nationalism, as a claim that once again the west knows best. But it is the opposite. If Xi and his generation of officials really do want to study Marxism they should start by understanding where it came from…

The West has a good chance at finding the best answers and responses if it keeps up free inquiry and an unfettered exchange of knowledge and ideas. I’m not convinced it will be up to the task, especially in the humanities, but that’s the only way to go. As for the Chinese Marxists, I don’t think they are completely ignorant of the historical origins of the only true teaching. As Mason explains,

They should understand that it drew on three strands of critical western thought – philosophy, political economy and utopian socialism – whose core concepts can be traced back to Plato and Aristotle.

Does it mean that Marxists worldwide are still clinging to the Three Whales, also known as the Three Sources and Three Constituent Parts of Marxism? It’s classic Leninism so should be on the Chinese Communist curriculum. Soviet Communists liked to emphasize their doctrine had roots in Plato and Aristotle. In a sense, what doesn’t?

Defying China’s wish to subordinate academic research and publication to its current political needs is no mere act of principle. It is an act of self-interest. Thanks to China’s “Great Firewall” there are already two internets on the planet. Facilitating the creation of two academies – one devoted to truth, the other to securing the power of Chinese officials – will backfire massively on ourselves.

I’m cautiously hoping it backfires on them after all. Life in a house of echo chambers and distorting mirrors must take its toll sooner or later. But will the other academy stay devoted to truth for long? Is it now?

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