China is paying for Karl Marx’s birthday party in Germany

Gone but not forgotten.
Gone but not forgotten.
Image: Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay
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Karl Marx, one of the world’s most influential philosophers, was born 200 years ago on Saturday (May 5) in Trier, Germany. To commemorate the person whose ideology shaped entire nations with his Communist Manifesto, locals are throwing a birthday party—and China is picking up the tab.

The people of Trier are bracing themselves for large crowds as festivities kick off over the weekend. Tourists can drink a Moselle wine named “Das Kapital” while they navigate through an art installation of 500 red, gnome-like statues of the philosopher. China also designed and funded a proper statue of Marx, which will be unveiled during the day.

In Beijing, Chinese president Xi Jinping is using Marx’s birthday to reinvigorate his nation’s communist heritage. On April 23, Xi  said during a Politburo session that top officials need to “grasp the power of the truth of Marxism” and view the party as the heir of the “spirit of the Communist Manifesto.”

In China, celebrations have included a documentary series by a Chinese state broadcaster entitled “Marx Is Right,” and an official tribute at the Great Hall of the People.

“Xi is depending on restoring the theoretical soul of the Chinese people,” said Sidney Rittenberg, a journalist who joined Mao Zedong’s revolution and served for years as his translator, to Bloomberg. “They built a better life and made money, but they lost their soul and I think he’s trying to restore that.”

While the people of Trier have welcomed China paying for festivities, a city spokesperson told the Xinhua news agency that locals “have long been a bit ashamed about Marx” and they are “aware of the fact that this is part of a larger Marx revival in China.”

This post has been updated to clarify that the documentary series and the official tribute for Marx will be held in China.