Ian Buruma (born December 28, 1951) is a Dutch writer and academic. Much of his work focuses on Asian culture, particularly that of 20th-century Japan. In 2003 he became Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights & Journalism at Bard College, New York.
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- It was, as we know, not so much eradicated as replaced by a Communist orthodoxy after 1949. And when this orthodoxy began to lose its grip on the Chinese public after the death of Chairman Mao in 1976, Chinese officials struggled to find a new set of beliefs to justify their monopoly on power. The ideological hybrid that followed Maoism was "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics," a mixture of state capitalism with political authoritarianism.
- The question, then, for Western companies, as much as for Western governments, is to decide whose side they are on: the Chinese officials who like to define their culture in a paternalistic, authoritarian way, or the large number of Chinese who have their own ideas about freedom.
- But, in the late twentieth century, it became more important to many leftists to save “Third World” culture, no matter how barbaric, from “neo-colonialism,” than to support equality and democracy. People on the left would defend brutal dictators (Castro, Mao, Pol Pot, Khomeini, et al.) simply because they opposed “Western imperialism.” As a result, all politics that were derived, no matter how loosely, from Marxism, lost credibility, and finally died in 1989. This was naturally a disaster for communists and socialists, but also for social democrats, for they had lost an ideological basis for their idealism. And, without idealism, politics becomes a form of accounting, a management of purely material interests.
- Obama is neither a socialist, nor a mere political accountant. He has some modest ideals, and may yet be an excellent president. But what is needed to revive liberal idealism is a set of new ideas on how to promote justice, equality and freedom in the world. Reagan, Thatcher, and Gorbachev, assisted in the end of an ideology, which once offered hope, and inspired real progress, but resulted in slavery and mass murder. We are still waiting for a new vision, which will lead to progress, but this time, we hope, without tyranny.