Marxism Is Harming China’s Intelligent Power

March 11, 2023 Topic: China Region: Asia Tags: ChinaMarxismXi JinpingChinese Communist Party

Marxism Is Harming China’s Intelligent Power

The CCP’s propaganda campaign to disseminate Marxism under the guise of promoting China’s culture and values cannot succeed.


The United States’ lasting prosperity and global muscle can be credited in part to its hard and soft power, but they also owe to another strong force: intelligent power. Intelligent power is the ability of a country to influence other players to follow or emulate its political system, social structure, development pathway, and lifestyle through its morality, culture, and values. It refers to the natural projection of moral appeal, cultural inclusiveness, and values.

Intelligent power is endogenous, resilient, and magnetic. A country with strong intelligent power sets an example worldwide, one that is the object of study of other countries, inspiring imitation in the political, economic, social, and judicial sectors. The unique intelligent power of China during the Song dynasty, Italy during the Renaissance, and the United Kingdom during the Industrial Revolution served as a model to inspire the development efforts of other countries.


With high levels of political morality based on the rule of law, inclusive multiculturalism, and broadly accepted values, countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, and Singapore appeal to people pursuing their dreams around the world. At the same time, these people bring their own special wisdom, knowledge, and cultures, which are used to further enhance the intelligent power of these countries.

In contemporary international relations, hard power—which relies on military intervention, coercive diplomacy, and economic sanctions—is becoming less useful as the global system changes. Soft power stresses the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion, but it is not easily wielded to achieve specific outcomes. By contrast, intelligent power is a fundamentally progressive force of human civilization grounded in its common morality, inclusive culture, and universal values. A country with intelligent power has a worldwide network of alliances that helps to strengthen both its hard and soft power.

Due to its strong intelligent power, the United States has long been considered one of the most attractive places on the planet, its voice and proposals are heard and followed by most countries, and its political system and values are followed by many other governments. A country with only hard power, like Russia, cannot earn the respect of others nor gain power through discourse in the international community.

No one denies that China is endowed with huge intelligent power. Its unique culture has assimilated civilized achievements from the East and the West; its traditional morality of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and fidelity is the cornerstone of China’s social order; and its common values of the “golden mean” are commonly accepted by the people of Asia.

In his efforts to consolidate the legitimacy of his regime, Chinese president Xi Jinping has been peddling Marxism packaged with Chinese culture and values to the world. As of 2018, 530 Confucius Institutes and more than 1,100 Confucius Classrooms were set up in 149 countries to promote and teach Chinese culture, language, and art. However, more and more critics argue that they are, in the words of Ethan Epstein, "an important part of China's overseas propaganda set-up”

To show “the spirit of struggle” that Xi has urged officials to implement, Chinese diplomats have embraced an aggressive “wolf warrior” ethos, discarding the professionalism, rationality, and courtesy that Chinese culture upholds. Chinese state media has embarked on advertising campaigns to bolster its Marxist ideology on Western platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

At home, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has launched a sweeping Mao-style ideological campaign. Xi called for China to build cultural confidence and oppose the transmission of Western cultures in China, blurring the distinction between ideology and culture. Moreover, Chinese authorities have intensified their crackdown on religious groups.

In the age of globalization, universal values are needed more than ever before to manage differences among countries without resorting to violence. Since Xi took office, the CCP has begun to distort or undermine universal values, portraying universal values as a force that threatens the CCP’s rule. Recently, the CCP urged China never to follow the path of Western constitutionalism, separation of powers, or judicial independence.

Xi’s ideological push has severely harmed China’s intelligent power. Many Confucius Institutes are banned in Western countries, while many countries and human rights groups have accused Beijing of serious human rights violations. “Wolf Warrior diplomacy” has frequently undermined Beijing’s reputation and interests. Indeed, Xi’s stigmatization of universal values has caused most modern, civilized countries to reject China as a world leader.

The CCP’s propaganda campaign to disseminate Marxism under the guise of promoting China’s culture and values cannot succeed. Because of this, China is unlikely to develop intelligent power in the near future.

Chris Lee is a Chinese economist and political strategist. He has published more than 60 papers. His latest piece in The National Interest is China Faces a Looming Economic Disaster.

Image: Salma Bashir Motiwala /