The CCP Erases Aristotle

13 February 2024

3.8 MINS

There can have been few more influential people in the life of the world than Aristotle. Born about 384 BC, much is unknown about his life, but little in the development of what has become the West has been unaffected by his thinking and writing.

Whether it be physics, politics, ethics, logic, psychology or economics, the student of Plato imparted a practical philosophy that remains unsurpassed by the range and depth of his thought.

Partly ignored for a few centuries, his influence on Christian thought through Thomas Aquinas and Judaism through Moses Ben Maimon (Maimonides) is incalculable. While some of his approaches have been changed, modified or abandoned over the centuries, his place in the history of the world has been assured — at least until now.

A Chinese ‘scholar’, Jin Canrong, recently launched an attack on the Greek philosopher, claiming there is no written record from before the 13th century that can prove Aristotle’s existence, and if he existed more than two millennia ago, could not have written hundreds of books containing millions of words before the arrival of paper in Europe in the 11th century.

‘Aristotle just popped up, and what made it more suspicious was that he seems to have an all-encompassing body of knowledge, ranging from optics and ethics to economics and politics,’ Jin said in a video of his presentation, which was reported by the South China Morning Post.

On the contrary, Greek texts were copied in earlier times, and Latin translations were made of some of his writings. His work was influential in early Islamic theology.

Rewriting History

It is notable that Jin is not a historian. Rather, he is an ‘expert’ on China-US relations at Renmin University, Beijing, and an advisor to the Chinese Communist Party. He is also a prolific propagandist on the Chinese version of TikTok, known as Douyin. These roles place his contributions in context.

Jin’s efforts have been rejected by some Chinese scholars, who observe that similar claims could be made about other philosophers such as Lao Tzu. Born in about 500 BC, even before Aristotle, Lao is revered amongst many Chinese for his philosophy and reflections on life. Known as the ‘Old Master’, Lao’s influence on Daoist philosophy remains considerable.

The attack on Aristotle arises amid attempts to claim a Chinese Xia dynasty stretching from 2070 BC to 1600 BC. The better historical understanding is that what is now modern China was ruled by foreigners, including the Mongol Yuan, for various periods. Nor was Tibet part of China.

Jin’s writings are really directed at undermining the development, influence and reliability of Western thought. They support Xi Jinping’s nationalist narrative that asserts a continuous Chinese culture, and claims that even a cursory reading of history places in doubt.

Xi firmly believes that if he can control the historical narrative, he can control the future. Under the influence of Marxism, history is defined backwards by the CCP. The official ‘History of the Chinese Communist Party’ is a good example. A few months ago, the Chinese leader said that China’s unique development path is rooted in the historical continuity of its culture. The Chinese civilisation is ‘the only uninterrupted one in the world’, Xi added. As George Orwell observed: ‘Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.’

Rank Lies

Apart from the attempt to undermine Western culture, the incident reflects a reality under the CCP that many in the West fail to comprehend. If hundreds of thousands of people can simply ‘disappear’, including high-ranking officials such as the Chinese Foreign and Defence ministers in recent months, why can’t one of the most influential philosophers of another civilisation? The hubris may seem extraordinary, but it is on full display.

Everything is political in China. According to the former high-ranking interviewees in the recent book, Who Are China’s Walking Dead? whether it is the arts, the law or other disciplines, only the official view of the CCP is allowed.

“The two things the CCP can never tolerate are independent thinking and speaking the truth. Telling the truth is forbidden. Anyone who still has some sense of independent thinking in him or who is willing to tell the truth is unable to survive under the CCP. You are forced to tell lies. It won’t work if you don’t tell lies. As a result, everyone becomes a liar.”

The interviewees reveal a significant understanding that Westerners miss, namely that there are ‘two skins of CCP cultural thinking.’ It is why, as a former CCP judge explains, there are both the written laws and the reality that a CCP committee can oversee and direct the work of judges, including determining their verdicts. It is why Xi can speak about world peace, the rule of law and democracy when he means total control over the people — and, if he could achieve it — the world.

If individuals can disappear, why not cultures? Having succeeded in supplanting much traditional Chinese and Confucian culture, leaving but a thin veneer of the past, the CCP now believes it can obliterate other cultures and downplay the achievements of different civilisations.

Millions of Chinese will be fed this diet — thousands of them overseas students in countries like Australia.  Many young Chinese have already been shaped to deny actual incidents in their own recent history, such as the Tiananmen Square massacre, reacting with denial and anger when confronted with the facts.

Tibetan and Uighur cultures are being eradicated; Hong Kong’s European past erased. How long before the Marxist-influenced lecturers in Western universities begin to repeat the Chinese narrative, further undermining the canons of Western civilisation?

The irony is that China wants to cancel one of the most important-ever contributors to the millennia-long discussion about how we can live together, and who sought to apply the rigour of discussion, logic and debate to the issue. Such thinking is alien to the CCP oligarchy, which has just one answer: submit and obey!


Originally published in The Spectator Australia. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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