Cong Riyun is a professor at School of Political Science and Public Administration at China University of Political Science and Law
1, Because of the freedom of speech and publishing in Western society and the multi-diversified religions and ideologies, Western intellectuals and media could harshly and severely criticize their own system and government. They are used to looking at society with black-colored glasses and they tend to exaggerate the dark side of society. However, leftists in the West tend to criticize Western society from a certain perspective, for example criticize the war from a pacific perspective. However, Chinese leftist intellectuals don’t have this perspective. Those who passionately criticize Western pro-war behaviors generally tend to advocate war in China’s international relations (as well as the relation between mainland and Taiwan). But this does not stop them from denouncing Western civilization because they are influenced by Western leftists. They mainly use the lens provided by Western leftists to look at Western society and Western culture - this is a mistake of Chinese people getting to know the West. We have seen, in the past few decades that local new leftist intellectuals and Western-educated new leftists generally just copy all kinds of leftist theories to China. They have serious misunderstanding of Chinese society and in judging Western civilization.
2, Ren Jiantao mentioned the “English disease” and I would like to expand its meanings. This kind of English disease is also a kind of disease of Western civilization. Western civilization has shown some sign of decline, as well as a lack of confidence. This has affected Chinese scholars and students who are educated in the West since the 80s. In their view this actually confirms their judgment on Western civilization that is taught in Chinese propaganda. Therefore all kinds of Western postmodern theories, social critique theories and all kinds of leftist influences were used to form the formula for Chinese nationalism. Actually those intellectuals who oppose Western stance depend on Western ideological resources most. They just refuse mainstream Western traditions. People usually say that Chinese leftists are very different from Western leftists. Western leftists stand on a more civil stance to criticize the government; while Chinese leftists have more affinity with the government - they provide ideological resources for the government and join them on the oppression of civil criticism. But Western leftists and Chinese leftists share something in common: they both criticize the West and they are both sympathetic in the understanding of Chinese reality. Chinese intellectuals who invite Western leftists scholars generally are those who are not completely enlightened themselves. When Western leftist theories are introduced to China, its natural logic is to embrace extremism, nationalism and authoritarianism.
3, Since the 1980s, some Chinese intellectuals borrowed resources from Western leftists and started to criticize or even demonize Western freedom and democracy. Meanwhile, they defended Chinese reality with nationalist logic. They borrowed Western multiculturalism to construct extreme Chinese nationalism. With the help of the deconstruction of postmodernism on democracy and the fashionable design of postmodernism, they rejected China’s democratization. Western leftists hold the anti-war stance and criticize the US government’s “hegemony” and “pro-war” policies. Chinese leftists take advantage of Western leftists’ resources to prove the US’ “hegemony” and “pro-war”. But they don’t follow Western leftists’ “anti-war” and pacifism stance, and just use the evidence of US’ pro-war behaviors exposed by Western leftists, to prove and strengthen their nationalistic stance. Therefore, it might be good in the West, but it is poisonous when it is introduced to China.
4, Since the reform and open up when there is another wave of large scale cultural communication with the West. Chinese intellectuals basically still hold that kind of special authoritarian personality that was constructed a few decades ago, which is a kind of pathological political psychology, a very serious political disease. Some people once were “red guards of Chairman Mao”, or even “little red guards”. The reform and open up and their Western education made them exposed to new knowledge and new theories from the West. Their mindsets have changed a lot but there is no fundamental change on their basic values. There is no reconstruction of personalities.
5, Young intellectuals in the 90s mainly received extreme and pathologic nationalist education, which made their psyche sick and personality deficient. Deep down in these people’s hearts and minds there was the deep preconceived prejudice on Western civilization, therefore it forced a special kind of attitude and sentiment on Western politics. Though in the past few decades since the reform and open up people’s human nature is basically liberated and there is the gradual development of modern psyche, the modern psyche is far from mature. They only reply on the nation, country, or power. This kind of immature modern personality faces all kinds of dominating power in family education, school education and social education. But their independent psyche is not enough to counter this kind of power. Therefore they experience frustration, oppression and sense of failure time and time again. They also seek more secure ways to vent to external objects. Therefore the new generation who are born after the reform and open up mostly believe in authoritarianism and are nationalists. The dependence on national power and resentment towards Western countries coexist in their subconsciousness.
6, It is this kind of deep political psyche or political personality that makes intellectuals since the Republic time embrace nationalism, resent or mock mainstream Western values and identify with all kinds of Western collectivism and leftist ideologies. Though some people may support Western ideologies on freedom and democracy, deep down their political psyche is generally separated. China is still on the process of individualization, and most people still have not formed their own independent self-esteem and modern democratic personality, therefore they don’t have the value to respect individuals. They don’t know how to respect individuals’ lives, power and self-esteem.