Chinese Observations On America
An article from Vox Day alerted me to an interesting read from Palladium Magazine, in which they discuss a man named Wang Huning, China’s top ideological theorist. Wang is a member of the CCP’s seven-man Politburo Standing Committee and is behind many of Xi’s political concepts and actions. He is rather “hidden” from the West, as he avoids speaking to foreigners or doing any public speaking.
Wang Huning is interesting because of his connection to Chinese power, the fact that he studied within the United States, and his ideological conversion from Americanism to Chinese nationalism.
The article states:
Also in 1988, Wang—having risen with unprecedented speed to become Fudan’s youngest full professor at age 30—won a coveted scholarship (facilitated by the American Political Science Association) to spend six months in the United States as a visiting scholar. Profoundly curious about America, Wang took full advantage, wandering about the country like a sort of latter-day Chinese Alexis de Tocqueville, visiting more than 30 cities and nearly 20 universities.
What he found deeply disturbed him, permanently shifting his view of the West and the consequences of its ideas.
Wang recorded his observations in a memoir that would become his most famous work: the 1991 book America Against America. In it, he marvels at homeless encampments in the streets of Washington DC, out-of-control drug crime in poor black neighborhoods in New York and San Francisco, and corporations that seemed to have fused themselves to and taken over responsibilities of government. Eventually, he concludes that America faces an “unstoppable undercurrent of crisis” produced by its societal contradictions, including between rich and poor, white and black, democratic and oligarchic power, egalitarianism and class privilege, individual rights and collective responsibilities, cultural traditions and the solvent of liquid modernity.
But while Americans can, he says, perceive that they are faced with “intricate social and cultural problems,” they “tend to think of them as scientific and technological problems” to be solved separately. This gets them nowhere, he argues, because their problems are in fact all inextricably interlinked and have the same root cause: a radical, nihilistic individualism at the heart of modern American liberalism.
“The real cell of society in the United States is the individual,” he finds. This is so because the cell most foundational (per Aristotle) to society, “the family, has disintegrated.” Meanwhile, in the American system, “everything has a dual nature, and the glamour of high commodification abounds. Human flesh, sex, knowledge, politics, power, and law can all become the target of commodification.” This “commodification, in many ways, corrupts society and leads to a number of serious social problems.” In the end, “the American economic system has created human loneliness” as its foremost product, along with spectacular inequality. As a result, “nihilism has become the American way, which is a fatal shock to cultural development and the American spirit.”
Moreover, he says that the “American spirit is facing serious challenges” from new ideational competitors. Reflecting on the universities he visited and quoting approvingly from Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, he notes a growing tension between Enlightenment liberal rationalism and a “younger generation [that] is ignorant of traditional Western values” and actively rejects its cultural inheritance. “If the value system collapses,” he wonders, “how can the social system be sustained?”
Ultimately, he argues, when faced with critical social issues like drug addiction, America’s atomized, deracinated, and dispirited society has found itself with “an insurmountable problem” because it no longer has any coherent conceptual grounds from which to mount any resistance.
Once idealistic about America, at the start of 1989 the young Wang returned to China and, promoted to Dean of Fudan’s International Politics Department, became a leading opponent of liberalization.
He began to argue that China had to resist global liberal influence and become a culturally unified and self-confident nation governed by a strong, centralized party-state. He would develop these ideas into what has become known as China’s “Neo-Authoritarian” movement—though Wang never used the term, identifying himself with China’s “Neo-Conservatives.” This reflected his desire to blend Marxist socialism with traditional Chinese Confucian values and Legalist political thought, maximalist Western ideas of state sovereignty and power, and nationalism in order to synthesize a new basis for long-term stability and growth immune to Western liberalism.
The rest of the article discusses Chinese liberalization and the subsequent turnaround as they attempt to combat the liberal influence that overtook them.
I heavily recommend reading the entire article, it’s well worth the read.
What Wang noticed is what many of our fellow dissidents/nationalists notice here in the states. Especially regarding “liquid modernity” combatting our traditional values and how individualism has ravaged our nation.
Individualism is especially prevalent in Wang’s and most dissidents’ understanding of our dilemma. It has created a wealth of social and cultural problems that Americans tend to view as “scientific and technological problems”, which can be solved with more individualistic approaches.
But therein lies the problem. Science and technology cannot overcome the very basis of our issues, for our issues are tied directly with the natural order, biology, and human nature.
Our social and cultural problems must be addressed as social and cultural problems. Otherwise, we will continue to ascribe solutions that only mask the root of the issue. The problem is, these issues cannot be addressed while still using an individualistic framework. Because it’s individualism that causes them.
China is not a role model by any means, but neither is the West. Both are taking harmful approaches. But at least the Chinese will still exist in a couple of centuries if they continue down their path, whereas the traditional Americans will not. We will be wiped from existence, while our Chinese counterparts will at least have the opportunity to lessen the tyrannical approach of the CCP over time.
Either way we look at it, China is taking a rabidly more nationalistic approach (albeit totalitarian) due in no small part to Wang. This is directly contrary to the Western approach, which is only accelerating individualism. These two diametrically opposed approaches will inevitably yield a winner, and given our current status, I see no pathway for this winner to be the Americans. We can barely stabilize our current situation, much less what the future holds.
We can fix the issues without the Chinese totalitarian bent, but only if we first understand the issue. The issue is the individualism plaguing us, and the social and cultural issues that arise because of that outlook.
A mixture of nationalism, tradition, and communitarianism is the only way out.
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