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Cheers greeted China President Xi Jinping as he toured Beijing’s Renmin University of China in April, telling students and teachers, “We must continue to promote the modernization of Marxism.” Social science research, he said, should have “Chinese characteristics” and contribute to “China’s independent knowledge system.”

It was a notable contrast to 11 years earlier, when Hu Jintao, Xi’s predecessor, visited the same campus, “listening carefully” to discussions on macroeconomics. That was in China’s boom years. The economy was growing faster than 10% a year, and private entrepreneurs in sectors such as real estate and technology operated with more autonomy than ever. Corruption and pollution were rampant. Karl Marx wasn’t mentioned.

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