Mar 11th, 2024

The Crisis of “Human” in the Age of Digital Intelligence: What can socialism do?

By Gao Shiming

The latest development of contemporary capitalism has led to a human crisis throughout the 21st century. After several iterations of financial capital and information technology over a long 20th century, capitalism has continuously presented newly upgraded versions and operational patterns - from exploitation to deprivation, from oppression to displacement, and from possession to domination. The nature of human beings and the destiny of the people present a series of new characteristics in the context of capitalism in the 21st century. On a global scale, a person’s internal subjective imitativeness, integrity, self-creativity, self-renewal and self-imagination are being gradually stripped away. For human nature, this represents a form of 'deprivation'.


The reason of this phenomenon is the change of the forms of governance and oppression around the world, and the structural change of how power is operated, which have become more secretive and transparent. In the past thirty years, the "exploitation" of human labor value by capital through production relations has been transformed into the "deprivation" of human initiative at the political level of life. In this situation, the fundamental issue of politics in life is displacement rather than oppression. The change from oppression to replacement equals replacing and abolishing our organs with prosthetics. The basic logic of capitalism is that production precedes demand - it is not because our bodies are lacking that artificial limbs are produced. On the contrary, it is precisely this pre-produced artificial limb that abolishes our senses and disables us.


On a practical level, in the past decade or so, an unprecedented social innovation has been taking place in China. The "digital intelligence society" formed as the digital economy and intelligent technology continues to gradually take shape, conducting a great number of experiments and new explorations. With the progress in constructing future communities, future villages, and future factories, many future life scenarios are rapidly becoming a reality. With the deepening construction of the digital intelligent society, a new development pattern is fully unfolding, accompanied by the emergence of the Internet, big data, AI, new life experiences in the era of mixed reality, new social consciousness, new sensibility, and new ethics.


In the 21st century, a new global order is emerging, which may imply a new beginning for human civilization. Who can better grasp the evolution of new technology and the latest development of productivity? Who can overcome the overall governing framework founded by information technology, intelligent technology as well as financial capital? Finally, who can propose a new agenda for human society will be able to win this new competition for the future of civilization?


In view of the self-iteration of technology and capitalism, together with the new ways of governance and domination from possession to domination, from exploitation to deprivation and from oppression to replacement, our understanding of culture, art and creation has changed. Is it possible to attempt to develop a new method of cultural struggle and spiritual production by jumping out of the small circle of art and intellectuals and returning to the keen perception, broad vision and great ambition of Marx and his successors? Can we open up a new path to freedom and innovation? Can we form a new development model that is open, inclusive, people-oriented and with common prosperity for all?

Gao Shiming is the President of China Academy of Art.

The Theoretical Chinese Socialism

By Yao Yang, Qin Zizong

In the early 1980s, the second-generation of the central leadership, represented by Comrade Deng Xiaoping, announced the primary stage of socialism and the proposition of building "socialism with Chinese characteristics" on the basis of summing up past experiences, correcting historic mistakes and advancing socialist modernization. This proposition broke away from Stalinist socialism, which was regarded as the orthodox of socialism at that time, and clearly stated that we should be realistic. Instead of copying the experiences of other countries, we should explore a socialist path aligning with Chinese conditions. Today, with the reform basically completed, the market economy established and the people's standard of living reaching a degree of moderate affluence, the conclusion is that the primary stage of socialism in our country is nearly finished or possibly has even come to an end.


The 18th CPC National Congress ushered in a new era for China. If the CPC's main task in the past three decades focused on breaking with the old, the following task of the CPC in the new era should be shifted to build up the new. As the primary stage of socialism approaches its end, the CPC’s next step on theoretical development should be oriented toward constructing a stable socialist formation that is conducive to the long-term stability of Chinese society and serves the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Accomplishment of this task requires a new theory of Chinese socialism. This theory must consist of several aspects: firstly, it must reflect the CPC’s attempts of integrating Marxism with Chinese practice, thus ensuring consistency across the CPC's theory; secondly, it must be able to explain the CPC's centennial course, and in particular the over 40 years of successful opening-up and reform experiences, thus providing theoretical support for the CPC's practice; thirdly, it must be compatible with the underlying psychology of the Chinese public, thus gaining wide recognition from the public; fourthly, it must incorporate mainstream values across the world, thus gaining the global recognition accordingly.


This paper endeavours to build up the theory. The writer argues that China will enter a stable period of socialism. During this period, the vision of Chinese socialism is the communist ideal depicted by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto, namely, the free and comprehensive development of human beings. This vision is consistent with the tradition of Chinese society that emphasizes the self-improvement of the individual. Specifically at the policy level, China should do its best to eliminate environmental, social and family constraints that prevent individuals from realizing their ambitions and encourage individual self-improvement on the socialist path. The political and economic systems of Chinese socialism should serve this purpose. The political system should ensure the sound functioning of the economy and society, and provide institutional safeguards for the free and comprehensive development of the individual. The constitutional status of the CPC derives from the Party's vanguard role in leading a centennial course, and from the Chinese constitutional tradition of selecting the virtuous and appointing the competent to safeguard its philosophical foundation The people's congresses embody both the CPC's assertion of the people's right to be the masters of their own destiny and Confucianism's populist ideology. The economic system should ensure efficiency while enhancing the capabilities of the people through redistribution and other means, so as to enable everyone to achieve free and comprehensive development.


Therefore, this paper is also an effort in the course of the Sinification of Marxism. Indeed, one of the recipes of the success for the CPC is its integration of the basic principles of Marxism with Chinese tradition since 1978. At the philosophical level, the Party has turned to the Chinese tradition of being programmatic and put forward the proposition that practice is the sole criterion for judging truth, which thus brought about  opening-up and reform; at the practical level, the Party has adopted the proposition of selecting the best people for the job, established a comprehensive system of cadre selection, and re-established the market mechanism of rewarding hard work and punishing laziness At the social level, the Party has encouraged the revival of traditional culture. The theory of Chinese socialism is to set up the link between Marxism, the Party's centennial practice, and the excellent achievements of the theory and practice undergirding state governance in Chinese tradition.


Yao Yang (姚洋) is the president of National Development Research Institute, Peking University.

Qin Zizhong (秦子忠) is lecturer at the Institute of Marxism, University of Hainan

Chinese Narrative in Three Formulations of Socialism

By Pan Shiwei

  • The original canonical pattern based on capitalism: socialism originated in capitalist society, arguing that capitalism is not sustainable and that socialism is transcendent and sublime.


  • Based on the non-capitalist transformational pattern: socialism in China did not develop in a capitalist country, but rose under the logic of China's history and development, changing construction of China's modern state.


  • Based on the self-growth pattern of socialism: socialism with Chinese characteristics, with the goal of socialism's self-growth, aims to transcend capitalism, strengthen the system, productive forces, and international comparative advantages, and demonstrate the advantages of socialism.


  • Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the third pattern of socialism, which is surpassing Western capitalism and opening up a better future.


Socialism has successively presented itself in its original canonical pattern, its transformed pattern and its self-growth pattern. Among these three patterns, socialism with Chinese characteristics can find its own position and construct a new narrative of history.


I. Based on the growth point of capitalism - the original canonical form of socialism

It is not by chance that the socialist trend was born in Europe and made the leap from idealism to science there. Europe benefited from the development of capitalism and stood out from the development of the whole world, leaping to become the most advanced region. Internally, through various forms of bourgeois revolutions, the European countries established bourgeois regimes and constructed social, market, political, cultural and modern nation-state structures to match. Externally, these pioneers of modernization undertook a sustained colonial expansion, inaugurating Eurocentric globalization through a combination of military wars, religious diffusion and cultural aggression. During this period, European capitalism was an intertwined and mutually reinforcing condition for internal and external development: internal political, economic, cultural, and social development drove and dominated external expansion; external expansion, in turn, greatly supported and reinforced internal development.

The canonical pattern of socialism has gradually coalesced on the basis of the mentioned above. The core composition of this pattern are:

1. The socialism was conceived to be originated only from capitalism, which was the most developed human society at that time.  The social foundations, political forces and ideological resources required for socialism were generated within capitalism.

2. Capitalism can and must be negated and transcended. No matter how long capitalism survives and sustains itself, it is after all a fragment of human history, and even if capitalism improves itself in response to the times and the circumstances, it is impossible to conclude that capitalism has eternal attributes. After capitalism has fulfilled its historical mission, it is its inescapable destiny to bid farewell to the human stage.

3. The end of capitalism is the beginning of socialism. From the very beginning, socialism has been developed on the huge productive forces, rich material and spiritual wealth and the modernization level that mankind has already achieved. Socialism is certainly a critique and negation of capitalism, but it is even more of a transcendence and sublimation. The more capitalism develops, the more it is preparing more material and other conditions for socialism. The more developed the productive forces of capitalism are, the more complex the relations of production are, and the more elaborate the institutional system is, the higher will naturally be the starting point and requirements for socialism in building a new society.

According to the original canonical pattern of socialism, in the sense of origin, socialism originates from and is higher than capitalism, and the classical narrative of socialism expanded from this has a strong vitality, which illuminates the path of mankind's journey through the jungles of capitalism, and inspires people to devote themselves to the modern historical process of transition to socialism.

II. Based on a non-capitalist growth point - the transformed pattern of socialism

Since the 20th century, the global socialist movement has undergone a major change, which is manifested in the long twists and turns and stunted growth of socialism in its birthplace, capitalist Europe. At the same time, the rise of socialism in China is of profound significance. Instead of socialism breaking through in the developed capitalist countries, where it was originally conceptualized to grow, a new style of growth emerged that was beyond the vision of the Marxist classicists. This reality transcends the discourses and imaginations of the classic writers and constitutes a completely new pattern of socialism. It is a transformed or derivative form distinct from the original pattern of the socialist classics. The emergence of this new pattern is the product of the intersection and fusion of the logic of socialist development and the logic of China's own development.

The infusion of socialist ideology into a particular country or nation, especially into a non-capitalist, backward country or nation, has occurred in many other areas outside China. Why is it that in China, however, a successful practice of integrating socialism with Chinese reality has happened? This is a question worth pondering. China, as the only source type of civilization continuously existing so far, should never be the result of discovery, enlightenment and enlightenment by the West, but should have its own logic of development. In modern times, the conflicting interests and opposing identities between the capitalist powers of Europe plus the United States and China as a colonial and semi-colonial country have made it impossible for the path of capitalist development to be followed, and China has chosen to move towards socialism instead.

China’s adoption of socialism changed the nature of social transformation in China: the Communist Party of China (CPC) replaced the bourgeois parties in China as the leader of social change; the working class in China joined with the peasants and other classes to replace the bourgeoisie as the main force of social change, thus social transformation in China aimed at dismantling the domination of feudalism, bureaucratic capitalism, and imperialism in China, realizing national liberation, and gaining national independence. Therefore, Chinese revolution completely reversed the content and methodology of the usual bourgeois democratic revolution, and fundamentally changed the modern state structure of China.

Following its foundation, People’s Republic of China continued to advance its transition to socialism and established a whole set of basic socialist economic, political and social systems, rather than orientating its development towards capitalism. The establishment of the socialist system also reset the course of China's modernization, i.e., independently and autonomously carving out a path of modernization on the basis of socialization and industrialization. After a series of twists and turns, the new China has finally opened up a new path of modernization that follows the socialist market economy, actively participates in the world economy and insists on common prosperity, placing China at the forefront of the world's modernization and development trend.

Socialism infused into China, and China’s choice of embarking on socialism is based on the transformed pattern of socialism without support of capitalist growth. It is not an extension of socialism in the general sense, but a deep integration of the logic of socialist development and the logic of China's own development, a socialism practiced by China on the basis of its own historical subjectivity. The introduction and growth of Chinese socialism has constructed a new pattern of which foundation, content and approach are different from the classically conceptualized pattern of socialism.

III. Self-developing formulation based on the growth point of socialism - socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, a logic that shows the intrinsic superiority and prospects of socialism as a modern socialist country above capitalism is emerging. This is a self-developing socialism based on the growth point of socialism. In a certain sense, this is not a natural continuation of the second pattern of socialism (the transformed one), but an upgrade with iterative significance, and has the connotation of a reversion to the first pattern of socialism (the canonical pattern), and can thus be called the third pattern of socialism. Briefly, the third pattern of socialism is the self-development of socialism to transcend capitalism, and since this pattern has only just unfolded, it is impossible to completely master its overall direction and inner laws, but can only roughly depict its basic outlines.

1. To unify and deepen ideological understanding, and to reserve appropriate capabilities. It is necessary to conduct deep deliberation and comprehensive planning, and to fully understand and be familiar with the state of development, bottlenecks, favourable and unfavourable conditions, operating mechanisms, and operational experience of European and American capitalism in all fields and in all aspects. On this basis, we promote our studies, gradually build up a conscious awareness of "self-deveopment", and form an arrangement in the process of adaptation which focuses on the long term.


2. Strengthening holistic development. Compared with the equilibrium formed after a long period of operation in the developed capitalist countries, China's economic, political, cultural, social and ecological development has its own priorities, sequences and lengths, and it is necessary to increase the awareness of the integration of the "five-in-one" development.


3. Promoting the high-quality development of productive forces. Without higher social productivity and a stronger material base, the inherent advantages of socialism certainly cannot be truly manifested. Although China is narrowing, and in some respects even closing, the gap with developed capitalist countries, enormous space for development is obviously visible.


4. Improving institutional maturity and fostering unique governance advantages. Based on consolidating the unique institutional and governance advantages that already exist, we should accelerate the improvement of the degree of perfection, maturity and implementation of institutional construction, so that we can face and leap over the high wall of the system that has operated for hundreds of years in Western capitalism.


5. Multi-dimensional manifestation of socialism’s advantageousness. Compared with capitalism, socialism is essentially determined by its many superiorities, such as the people being the masters of their own house, serving the people wholeheartedly, adhering to common prosperity, preventing polarisation, maintaining the Party's advancement and purity, strengthening the Party's leadership and governing level, highlighting social harmony, and the new type of national system. These superiorities should be carefully nurtured in cherishing and caring for them.


6. Thickening the Chinese cultural foundation of socialism. China is a civilized country. Chinese civilization is a source-based civilization with its own distinctive features, from language and writing to thinking; Chinese culture stretches back through the ages and has never been interrupted. Efforts should be exerted to transform this valuable resource creatively into a more proactive spiritual force and to build up the Chinese culture and civilization for the practice of socialism in China.


7. A more prominent international comparative advantage. China's development has already created international comparative advantages in many areas, even in comparison with developed capitalist countries. As China's modernization continues, its international comparative advantages in terms of faster speed, lower social costs, wider sharing and gentler modernization will become even more pronounced.

As the third pattern of socialism, i.e., the self-development pattern based on the growth point of socialism, is becoming more mature in China. What capitalism is doing, socialism is doing better than the former; what capitalism cannot do, socialism can do successfully. The growing socialism with Chinese characteristics is surpassing contemporary Western capitalism and opening up a better future for humankind. In the face of this burgeoning new form of socialism, we need a new self-awareness.


Pan Shiwei (潘世伟) was the former Party Secretary of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Copyright notice: This page is translated by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung from original Chinese articles abridged in Beijing Cultural Review. The original articles were published in Beijing Cultural Review, Vol. 3, 2023 (June issue). Copyright is retained by the authors. Reproduction is subject to permission from the authors, Beijing Cultural Review and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.

What and how is China debating itself? “Debate Unblocked: Wenhua Zongheng” allows a glimpse into a Chinese discourse by looking at China discussing its opportunities and visions, but also failures and contradictions. The bi-monthly journal Wenhua Zongheng (Beijing Cultural Review) is one of the most important intellectual debate-journals in China in recent years, that regards itself as an explicitly socialist discourse space in search for solutions in the face of China's various modernization crises resulting from the rapid transformation. Featuring regularly articles from Wenhua Zongheng gives insight into a complex and diverse debate taking place in China.

What and how is China debating itself? “Debate Unblocked: Wenhua Zongheng” allows a glimpse into a Chinese discourse by looking at China discussing its opportunities and visions, but also failures and contradictions. The bi-monthly journal Wenhua Zongheng (Beijing Cultural Review) is one of the most important intellectual debate-journals in China in recent years, that regards itself as an explicitly socialist discourse space in search for solutions in the face of China's various modernization crises resulting from the rapid transformation. Featuring regularly articles from Wenhua Zongheng gives insight into a complex and diverse debate taking place in China.

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