Communism with Chinese Characteristics: Confucius and China’s Future
The first half of the 20th century in China was characterized by political disunity as factions fought among themselves to fill the power vacuum left behind when the last Chinese emperor was overthrown in 1912. The fighting culminated in the decades-long Chinese Civil War (1927-1950) between the last two remaining contenders, the Chinese Communist Party and the Nationalists. The communists won control of the Chinese mainland in 1949 and established the People’s Republic of China. The birth of a “New China,” governed under “socialism with Chinese characteristics,”1 also marked a pivotal shift away from Confucianism, which had been the most influential school of thought in China for two thousand years. Now, communists blamed it for China’s stunted development and perceived backwardness, positioning communist ideology as the solution to China’s problems. Confucian philosophy, with its emphasis on knowing one’s place on the political hierarchy, was associated with the gentry class that Chinese communists claimed exploited peasant farmers—the Chinese Communist Party’s version of Karl Marx’s claim that the bourgeoisie exploited the proletariat.
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