Two articles in the September 9 issue of the News & Observer covering Jiang Zemin's confirmation as China's new leader exemplify the reason many non-Americans perceive us to be a highly indoctrinated citizenry engaged in an obtusely narrow public discussion of issues. In column after column of commentary, nothing that made sense of Chinese political or social reality ever issued forth.
The standard obfuscations of econo-speak, however, were in abundance. Selling off the public sector is called "liberalization," and giving transnational corporations greater profits is called "reform." The history of the Chinese economy is only cited back to Mao, with no reference to what preceded the revolution, and the standard post-McCarthy meanings are ascribed to Marxism, called an economic system. Scholars (who have actually studied Marx) will point out that "Marxism" is a theoretical framework (which emphasizes realism, flexibility, and practicality in economic development) that includes philosophy, political economy, epistemology, and sociology.
This is not an endorsement or a rejection of any particular country's methodology in building socialism. China's leadership may be on a Confucian timetable, planning by decades rather than years, with the intention of consolidating the heretofore uneven economic development they are pursuing under a future reassertion of social appropriation. Or they may be trudging down the tragic path of converting a political party into a capitalist class. Without more information an some real insight into the dynamics of Chinese politics and the psychology of its leaders, our conclusions will be pointless and superficial at best, and belligerently dangerous at worst.
Rather this is an appeal to readers that they demand their media spend less time spotlighting celebrities, and more time engaged in informed, critical reflection on the matters that shape our lives.
This rush to judgment without reflection is illustrative of the astonishing general ignorance of the supposedly most powerful nation in the world. It may well augur the withering away of a genuine intelligentsia in this country that is symptomatic of this late stage of capitalism.
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