Of course, economic difference—class—is no stranger to an American; it might not be an exaggeration to say that at least some Americans believe that economic difference is essential to progress. But seeing that difference here somehow seems different, perhaps because I spent so much of my career living in and studying a society that claimed to be organized on the basis of eliminating class distinctions. Of course, that state—the USSR—ingloriously disappeared now two decades ago, and the communist party, once the only party of Soviet politics, is now a minor player in what passes for politics in Russia today. Strolling the streets of Nanjing, however, where officially the party remains in firm control, I find it hard to discover evidence that the social philosophy of Marx and Engels has any legacy here.
You know how it has become common among Christians confronted with difficult choices to try to decide the issue by asking "What would Jesus say?" Looking around at today's China I can't help but wonder, "What would Mao say?"