The Chinese Communist Party was founded in Shanghai in 1921, and assumed full control of mainland China by 1949.

Marxist philosophy, in short, is the Hegelian anti-thesis of Hegelian philosophy.

China is not a philosophical vacuum, into which this philosophy found expression.

It seems to me improbable that the indigenous Chinese philosophy, particularly of state-craft, that is political philosophy, did not in some degree express itself in the then new philosophy. One must assert, it will.

Have there been any studies that look at how the two influenced each other? For example, through Chinese Buddhism, Daoism or Confucianism?

  • Hint: The Chinese state runs Confucius Institutes in foreign countries. President Hu Jintao chose the term Socialist Harmonious Society for his tenure: this obviously combines the "new" and "old" in some form.
    – Drux
    Sep 23 '13 at 9:57
  • there are some japanese buddhist marxists, i can try and find names if you're [still..] intrigued
    – user6917
    Aug 26 '14 at 2:43
  • First, Confucianism is not a religious philosophy, but a social philosophy. One can be both a Buddhist and a Confucian. Before communism, this was fairly common. The Chinese I have met in recent years have been Confucians, whether or not they were atheists or Buddhists. Confucianism does not conflict with any political or religious philosophy. Feb 7 '15 at 14:07
  • @SwamiVishwananda: I didn't think it was; I read somewhere that Honk-Kong was one of the last outposts for Confucianism as practise as state-craft. Feb 13 '15 at 14:02

The Chinese government is "working towards" a Marxist society but doesn't like to acknowledge its shortcomings and is instead encouraging Confucianism. There is a good paper on this topic titled From Communism to Confucianism: Changing Discourses on China's Political Future and discusses the influences of the two on each other. It is available here - http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9173.pdf

Some of the things said in the paper:

I would surmise, however, that the main reason Chinese officials and scholars do not talk about communism is that hardly anybody really believes that Marxism should provide guidelines for thinking about China’s political future. The ideology has been so discredited by its misuses that it has lost almost all legitimacy in society. In reality, even the “communist” government won’t be confined by Marxist theory if it conflicts with the imperative to remain in power and to provide stability and order in society. For practical purposes, it’s the end of ideology in China. Not the end of all ideology, but the end of Marxist ideology. To the extent there’s a need for a moral foundation for political rule in China, it almost certainly won’t come from Karl Marx.


In China, the moral vacuum is being filled by Christian sects, Falun Gong, and extreme forms of nationalism. But the government considers that such alternatives threaten the hardwon peace and stability that underpins the country’s development, so it has encouraged the revival of China’s most venerable political tradition: Confucianism. Like most ideologies, however, Confucianism can be a double-edged sword.

How does Confucianism resonate in society at large? Given that the CCP spent its first three decades in power trying to extirpate every root and branch of Confucianism that it regarded as a feudal and reactionary world-view hindering progress, it would seem to be a losing battle. It could be argued, however, that the parts of Marxism that really took hold in the population—the importance of material wellbeing and an aversion to otherworldly outlooks—did so because they resonated with deeper Confucian roots. And those parts of the CCP’s program that failed to take hold—such as the attempt to replace family ties with ties to the state during the Cultural Revolution—did so because they conflicted with central Confucian values and habits. The Marxist label can be misleading. Li Zehou and Jin Guantao have argued that Chinese style Marxism was actually a continuation of traditional ways. Mao’s belief that political change comes about via people’s moral transformation owes more to Confucianism than to historical materialism. The Maoist practice of “self-criticism” echoes the Confucian idea that demands should be directed at oneself before being directed at others. The idea that rulers should be morally upright has Confucian roots, as does the practice of invoking model workers who are supposed to set an example for others. Even the seemingly trivial fact that senior Communist Party leaders dye their hair black can be traced to the Mencian idea that “white haired people” should be cared for rather than engaged in heavy work : still today it might seem strange for “white haired people” to have too many responsibilities. Again, nothing in the Marxist tradition about hair color. So the break with tradition may not have been as “totalizing” as advertised. Less controversial, perhaps, is the claim that Confucian values still inform ways of life, especially regarding family ethics.

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