The University of Newcastle’s news team has, believe it or not, posted a news item on my involvement with Chinese Marxism. It has its expected focus, but they quoted me fairly. Full text copied here:
After 11 years of increasingly longer visits to China, The Centre for 21st Century Humanities’ Professor Roland Boer is tapping into collaboration opportunities with Chinese scholars of Marxism and has created deep connections for Chinese students to spend time at The University of Newcastle.
Having been invited to teach at Renmin University of China in 2013, Professor Boer currently holds the role of Distinguished Overseas Professor in a research position at the University.
“I direct a project called ‘Socialism in Power’, with Chinese and international scholars. It will run for 6-7 years and focuses on issues such as the socialist state, socialist democracy, socialist civil society, the role of the communist party, socialist market economy and contradiction,” Professor Boer said.
Professor Boer is forging bonds that are leading to an increasing level of collaboration for UoN, especially in the area of Marxism, which is now a scholarly discipline in China in its own right.
“Every university in China has a school of Marxism, let alone major research institutes like the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau. Marxism opens many doors otherwise closed to foreigners and offers a range of collaboration opportunities,” he stated.
“Further, it is now mandatory that every Chinese university lecturer who is seeking promotion must spend a year overseas, so an increasing number of Marxist scholars are coming to UoN for that year. Also, postgraduate scholars are often expected to spend a semester or year overseas, so more of these are coming to UoN.”
Reflecting on his time in China, Professor Boer is “amazed and bewildered” about the way Chinese tradition meets Marxism in China. He notes the main difference to scholarly Australia is that Chinese scholars are closely involved with key social, economic and political issues, with much of their research focused on dealing with solutions to problems.
“This is both part of Chinese tradition and the Marxist heritage. The scholar has a venerable place in Chinese society. The intellectual is simultaneously expected to devote significant time to reading, thinking and writing and to the good of public life,” Professor Boer remarked.
“One volunteers to contribute in some way to the greater good of society, but this is simultaneously a duty or obligation. Although it is manifested as many levels of social relations, for an intellectual it means service in or for the government, or perhaps work that contributes to solving a commonly recognised problem.”
Boer, who is a Marxist and a scholar, is especially aware of the extremely high ethical standards expected of his role in China.
“The combination of Confucian and Marxist ethics entails an expectation of almost impeccable morality – speaking plainly and directly, being honest, living simply, avoiding any sign of personal gain, and substantially focused on the public good.”
“By living here in China, I’ve been able to immerse myself in Chinese Marxist ethics, which has had a profound influence on me and my lifestyle. There is a traditional Chinese term, jianku pusu, which means ‘to work diligently and live simply’. This has also become a feature of Marxist ethics in China, and, in a rather different way, was the way I was brought up,” Professor Boer said.
But what it is that Professor Boer likes most about his post in China? The answer is quite obvious given Boer’s fascination with Marxism and the fact that China is a socialist country.
“I like Chinese culture, food, tradition, people, pace of life, etc., but the main reason I like China is because the communist party is in power.”