“I think it very important we study Romans, not just Greeks,” he told Mark Lilla. “Romans built an empire over many centuries. We must learn from them.”
China’s young intellectuals are rejecting both Marxism and liberal democracy, Lilla writes. But they are diligently studying two influential Western philosophers similarly dismissive of liberalism and focused on the classics.
Carl Schmitt’s “brutal modern statism” and Leo Strauss’s secretive “gentlemanly” elite have an appeal to China’s future decision-makers and opinion-formers who are showing a preference for Platonic dialogue over parliamentary democracy. Better the ordered deliberations of a new aristocratic vanguard than the messy chaos of popular politics:
Their reading of history convinces them that China’s enduring challenges have always been to maintain territorial unity, keep social peace, and defend national interests against other states—challenges heightened today by global market forces and a liberal ideology that idealizes individual rights, social pluralism, and international law.