Skip to content

Guangming Daily: Challenges for the Ideological Work

[Editor’s Note: Guangming Daily published an article about the challenges that China’s mainstream socialist ideology is facing: “cultural infiltration from the Western hostile forces,” “the new technological revolution,” “the pluralistic value system in the market economy,” “the tortuous development of the international socialist movement,” and “the mode of communication in the Internet age.” The entire article is translated below. ] [1]

Since the 1990’s, with the economic globalization and new technology revolution, the competition in soft power among the countries of the world has intensified. This poses challenges to our mainstream ideology on all fronts. They are reflected in the following aspects.

First is the threat posed by the cultural infiltration from the Western hostile forces. After the dramatic changes in the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries, the Western hostile forces shifted their focus of “Westernization” and “differentiation” to China. Relying on their first-move advantage in the economy, politics, and the military, they declare the Western “freedom and democracy system” to be internationally accepted “universal values.” Taking advantage of the cultural identity crisis that exists in some developing countries during the process of modernization, they (the Western hostile forces) either force or induce them to recognize these Western values. In this way, they carry out cultural homogenization [2] and cultural infiltration in non-Western nations, and implement peaceful evolution in socialist countries, especially China. In a class society, the ideologies that reflect the socioeconomic infrastructure are deeply marked with a stigma defined by the specific historical period, either in essence or in expression. Therefore, the so called “universality” does not exist in the most direct expressions of ideologies – political and legal ideas, cultural and moral concepts, and social values. “Universal values” are actually the value system and ideology of the Western countries, which are being elevated as a universal, sacred, absolute, eternal value system that is beyond class and time. This demonstrates that the struggle in the ideological arena is still fierce.

Second, the social changes caused by the new technological revolution have weakened the differences between the two major ideologies. Some scholars have pointed out that the new technological revolution has led people to pay more attention to science and technology. This “instrumental rationality,” with science and technology as the main carrier, has become the main ideology of modern society. [3] People are at the mercy of this instrumental rationality. In front of the power and achievement of the instrumental rationality as demonstrated by scientific and technological progress, people pay more attention to comprehensive national strength, and to competition in talent and technology, but less to attention to the differences and antithesis between cultures and traditional ideologies. The ideologies with obvious characteristics of social classes may also fade into oblivion. Some Western scholars have postulated that science and technology will lead the people down an irreversible path of homogeneity, and that all the countries undergoing economic modernization will certainly be more and more similar. Some scholars believe that in today’s development in China, on one side, we need to respect knowledge and talent, and rigorously develop science and technology; on the other side, we must also fully understand the nature of the instrumental rationality of science and technology, and be vigilant about the ideological trap brought about by the “new technological revolution.”

Third, the pluralistic value system in the socialist market economy has an impact on the mainstream ideology in China. Under the conditions of the socialist market economy, with the coexistence of the generality of the market economy and the peculiarity of the socialist market economy, different value appeals are intertwined with each other. On one side, new values compatible with the socialist market economy have emerged; on the other, the value concept of pursuing utilitarianism and effectiveness in the market economy appears to have had a negative impact. Meanwhile, in the process of communication and integration between the Eastern and Western cultures and values, a number of non-Marxist and non-socialist value concepts that are different from our national traditions have gradually found their way into our country, to some extent, filling a vacuum due to a loss of traditional values. With the profound changes in China’s economic system and social structure, and the profound changes in the landscape of interest groups, various ideologies and cultures are interacting with each other, and various social strata and interest groups have mushroomed. They are making value judgments based on their own interests. This provides a realistic soil for pluralism in value systems and ideologies, constituting a conflict with mainstream values and ideologies. Not only that, but some people have begun to dilute the dominant values of our country. They even doubt the guiding role of Marxism and promote neo-liberalism and democratic socialism. A prominent tendency appeared after the reform and opening up, for China’s mainstream ideology to be impacted and diluted. This should arouse vigilance.

Fourth, the tortuous development of the international socialist movement has influenced China’s ideology. In the late 1980’s, sudden changes took place in the world. With the interaction of the West’s “peaceful evolution” strategy and domestic anti-Marxist ideologies and other crises, the Soviet Union and socialist countries in East Europe underwent a significant change. In fact, the dramatic changes in the Soviet Union and East Europe did not occur because Marxism is outdated, nor because socialist theory and practice were bankrupt, but because socialist theory became distorted and then failed, and the communist leaders of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe departed from Marxism. The dramatic changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have caused huge losses to the international communist movement, have brought serious chaos to the ideologies in socialist states, and are also posing an ideological threat to our country.

Fifth, is the challenge posed by the mode of communication in the Internet age. The development of information networks has changed the traditional means for the communication of culture. Network communication, which is instant, massive, global, and interactive, has not only provided a new channel, expanded into a new space, and constructed a new platform for spreading socialist ideologies, thus creating new opportunities for strengthening the attractiveness of our mainstream ideology; it has also posed a serious challenge to the security of our ideology. Many scholars believe that network communication, with many of its characteristics, presents powerful penetration capabilities, which provide conditions for the Western hostile forces’ cultural and ideological infiltration. As the network technology in China is relatively backward, and the defense capability against information dissemination is relatively limited, it is difficult for us to achieve a superior position in the international ideological battle in the era of the Internet. At the same time, the diversity of choices and plurality of values that are the consequence of the massive spreading of information have to some extent impacted the control and guidance of our mainstream ideology and weakened people’s identification with socialist ideology. Giving full play to the positive role of the socialist core values in virtual space is the inevitable choice for mainstream ideology in China to meet the challenges and win the dominant position in the information age.

[1] Guangming Daily, “Challenges for the Ideological Work,” May 9, 2011.
[2] Cultural homogenization is the homogenization of different cultural practices into one blended, uniform cultural practice that does not allow easy identification of the characteristics of many cultures. It means that, over the years, peoples of two or more cultures have interacted and intermingled in such a manner as to lose their individual cultural identities and merged into one uniform culture than does not show any trace of a diversity of different cultures among the people.
[3] Instrumental Rationality is a specific form of rationality focusing on the most efficient or cost-effective means to achieve a specific end, but not in itself reflecting on the value of that end. It is a value system that worships instruments and technologies. Instrumental Rationality is also known as Effectiveness Rationality or Efficiency Rationality.