Why China’s “Left” Finds Favor in the West

China Media Project translates a blog post by Yang Hengjun on why “leftist” scholars like Wang Hui have found favor in the West, given their critical attitudes toward democracy and universal values. Yang Hengjun is a noted Guangzhou-based blogger and online novelist.

The plagiarism case involving the well-known “leftist” scholar Wang Hui (汪晖) has made ripples in the press lately, and some academics in the West have stepped up to defend Mr. Wang. My own readers have written to me about this. Why, they ask, do Western academics rush to defend such a scholar?

I’ve read only a number of essays by Wang Hui. Nevertheless, I do have some understanding of scholars of Wang’s ilk. Scholars in China who have, like Mr. Wang, been branded with the label “left” tend to criticize Western democratic systems and universal values with an aptitude not greatly unlike that of Western academics. Their scholarship and pronouncements on such matters as “Chinese characteristics” and Chinese models have found some favor among Western academics [for whom such material provides fresh fodder]. As a result, many Western academics enjoy and “respect” these scholars on China’s “left”, and not without their reasons.

It only makes sense that Web users should have trouble separating truth from fact in the Wang Hui case, and that they should end up turning some things on their heads.


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