Xi Jinping’s Faustian moment

‚Only he deserves freedom as well as life who must conquer them every day‘ –

Goethe’s Faust

by Spengler (David P. Goldman) July 1, 2021

„Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution caught up with the 15-year-old Xi Jinping, as Edward Luttwak recounted recently in the London Review of Books.

The young Xi, son of a Communist luminary disgraced by the Red Guards, was “sent to work in Liangjiahe, a miserably poor mountain village of windowless cave houses in a barren landscape of deforested hills in northern Shaanxi.

It was there that another teenage exile lent him a copy of [Goethe’s] Faust, which Xi read again and again till he knew it by heart, as he credibly boasted on meeting Angela Merkel.”

That is the single most important data point we have about a man whose public persona consists of Brobdingnagian billboard images and speeches in turgid officialese. The second data point, of course, is that he married Peng Liyuan, a popular singer of sentimental Heimatslieder.

Goethe’s great drama is the definitive work of modern literature. Virtually all of it is in rhymed verse, in a language at once so colloquial and so sublime that it defies translation.“ (…)

„The 2006 Nobelist in Economics Edmund Phelps sketched what might be called a “Faustian” economic philosophy in an essay published a dozen years ago:

I personally hold that the classical spirit of challenge and self-discovery is a fundamental human trait. By showing how the risk-taking activity of individuals contributes to social benefits, economics helps societies to accommodate what Augustine called our “restlessness of heart.” This is the better part of our human nature. Societies that suppress this restlessness stagnate and die. The issue of morality in economics is neither the fairness of income distribution nor the stability of financial systems. It is how human institutions can be shaped to correspond to human nature—to man’s nature as an innovator.

Phelps’s meditation on human striving brings us full circle to Xi’s fascination with Goethe’s Faust.“ (…)


Xi Jinping’s Faustian moment

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