BEIJING • The decision of China's ruling Communist Party to stick with the political theories of Karl Marx remains "totally correct", President Xi Jinping said ahead of the 200th anniversary of the German philosopher's birth today.
Marxism still holds sway in China, despite decades of market-driven growth that has made it the second-largest economy in the world.
Students start learning the theories of Marx and Lenin in middle school and civil servants - even journalists in state-run media - have to take mandatory courses in Marxist theory to secure promotions.
Since coming to power in 2012, Mr Xi, widely seen as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has said the party must not forget its socialist roots as it works to attain the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation".
At the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday, Mr Xi said: "Writing Marxism onto the flag of the Chinese Communist Party was totally correct... Unceasingly promoting the sinification and modernisation of Marxism is totally correct."
Mr Xi also instructed all party members to adopt reading Marxist works and understanding Marxist theories as a "way of life" and a "spiritual pursuit".
He hailed the philosopher as "the revolutionary tutor of the proletariat and working people all over the world... and the greatest thinker of modern times".
Mr Xi's speech came near the end of a week-long propaganda blitz by state media, with chat shows saying "Marx was Right" and cartoons of his wild youth, aiming to show his theories remain relevant to modern China and the next generation.
Today, China, the largest self-identified socialist country, outwardly displays all the trappings of a modern capitalist society, from rampant consumption to a massive gap between the urban elite and rural poor.
The apparent contradiction between party rhetoric and appearance has prompted many analysts to suggest the party is no longer really motivated by Marxism but puts practical and economic concerns above all else.
However, Mr Xi has wholeheartedly embraced the party's founding ideology and reintroduced study sessions that hark back to the Mao era, as he stresses the need for China to be confident in its revolutionary history and political system.
"Even if it offends our post-communist conventional wisdom, I think we have to begin accepting the notion that Xi Jinping actually believes in Marx and Marxism," said Mr Jude Blanchette, head of China practice for Crumpton Group, a Washington-based advisory firm.
The emphasis on Marx also helps widen the ideological gulf with Western capitalist democracies, Mr Blanchette added.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE