China's President Xi Jinping calls for Marxism and intellectual loyalty

Soldiers stand guard in front of a huge portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping at the entrance to a military base in Guilin, China on May 13, 2016.
Soldiers stand guard in front of a huge portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping at the entrance to a military base in Guilin, China on May 13, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - China's Communist Party must ensure that philosophy and social science "unequivocally uphold" Marxist principles, President Xi Jinping told a high-level academic seminar, according to state media reports.

Mr Xi's address to around 150 specialists was his latest move to exert greater authority over China's cultural sphere, following two similar gatherings earlier this year on his vision for the news media and the Internet, and came as the ruling party also seeks more control over universities.

The event on Tuesday (May 17) was held a day after the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the Cultural Revolution, which saw China plunged into a decade of mayhem under Mao Zedong.

"Marxism is never the end of truth. It opens a path toward truth," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Mr Xi as saying in a speech that ran for over an hour and a half.

According to the People's Daily, the party's official mouthpiece, Mr Xi called for socialist theories with "Chinese characteristics".

The 19th-century German thinker's philosophy has evolved over time, Xinhua cited him as saying, adding that the ruling party must lead and manage the development of philosophy and social sciences.

Intellectuals in the field should be "staunch supporters of Party governance", he said.

Mr Xi has in recent years called for higher education to play a larger role in "ideological guidance" and urged more teaching of Marxism in universities, where curricula remain tightly controlled and liberal scholars report increasing fears of censorship.

"Confidence in our culture should be strengthened, which is a power that is more basic, deeper and more lasting," he said, according to Xinhua.

The Communist party regularly espouses nationalism as part of its claim to a right to rule, and has acted more assertively under Mr Xi both domestically and internationally.

Mr Deng Yuwen, the former deputy editor of the Central Party School's journal, said the symposium's guest list showed that liberal scholars had been excluded in favour of leftists more prone to shun Western influences.

"Rightist intellectuals have completely lost the trust of the ruling party, while those who adhere to the 'Chinese model' are taking centre stage," he wrote on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo platform.