Monday, March 14, 2011

What would Mao Say?

As I have already remarked in an earlier post, China in 2011 seems in so many ways a different, much richer place than the China I first met in 1982.  Especially in a city like Nanjing, one sees plenty of people—especially young people—who are very well dressed, outfitted with iPods and smart phones, and clearly enjoying life.  Amidst the BMWs, Buicks, and Hondas, the gated communities and fancy hi-rise condos, however, there are still plenty of bicycles, motor scooters, and pedestrians, lots of apartments that have yet to benefit from China's economic dynamism, and quite a few people haltered to enormous carts full of trash or recycled cardboard, dragging their wagons by brute force on foot.  So it's clear that not everyone has yet struck it rich in China.

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?"

No comments:

Post a Comment