I have recently finished working through a Chinese textbook on linguistics (used in Chinese universities’ ‘Linguistics 101’ courses). I found nothing particularly ideological about the textbook. It did contain references to Russian linguists (along with western experts like Saussure and Chomsky), who might not be discussed in western linguistics textbooks. But there were no other references to ideological issues, like the need for ‘correct thought’.
What I did find surprising, however, was that the Chinese textbook’s two authors both wrote afterwords to the book in which they referred to ‘dialectical materialism’ and ‘historical materialism’. The afterwords were mainly about current issues in linguistics teaching in China, but both authors evidently found it appropriate to say that the book was written in accordance with the principles of dialectical materialism and historical materialism. They did not say how the book reflected these principles, just that it did.
I can only assume that it is important in China for intellectuals to say that their work has been prepared in accordance with Marxist principles. But what is the content of these principles? The brief definitions I have found in Wikipedia are quite anodyne:
- Dialectical materialism: the Marxist theory (adopted as the official philosophy of the Soviet communists) that political and historical events result from the conflict of social forces and are interpretable as a series of contradictions and their solutions. The conflict is seen as caused by material needs.
- Historical materialism: the methodological approach of Marxist historiography that focuses on human societies and their development over time, claiming that they follow a number of observable tendencies.