CCP leading academic Jin Canrong claimed that, since the West lied on the existence of the Greek philosopher, it can lie on everything.
by Zhou Kexin
Strange as it may seem, one of the most searched names on the web last week in China was Aristotle. Professor Jin Canrong from Renmin University in Beijing gave a speech whose video went viral on social media, listing arguments that he said prove Aristotle never existed.
Jin also noted that Aristotle is crucial for the whole Western narrative and its claim that philosophy was already highly advanced in the West in the 4th century BCE. Jin suggested that Aristotle’s works may have been written some seventeen centuries later. He concluded that if the West has lied for so long about Aristotle, Chinese are authorized to believe they lie about pretty much everything.
Jin was not well-known to the Chinese general public before his Aristotle video, but is not an unimportant figure. Paradoxically, he might have been more known in the West, where he participated in several conferences and lectured (not about Aristotle) in leading universities and forums. He is Professor and Associate Dean at the School of International Studies of Renmin University, one of China’s top ten colleges, and is listed as an “advisor” of the CCP. He is a specialist of American Studies, not Greek History, but clearly he could not have created such a widely reported incident without the approval of the CCP (otherwise, his video would have been quietly deleted in a few hours).
Jin’s video is for domestic rather than international propaganda. Even some Chinese netizens have noted that his arguments are futile (although the majority of comments are favorable). He claims that Aristotle’s works are mentioned only in sources from the 13th century and later. This is false, as Aristotle’s theories started being debated mentioning his name and his school shortly after his death, whose date is traditionally fixed at 322 BCE, and even before. Aristotle seems to be much better documented than Confucius, whose existence is never put in doubt by the CCP and Xi Jinping himself.
Jin’s argument that mostly impressed thousands of Chinese netizens is that Aristotle could not have written so many books before paper, which was invented in China after his death and came to the West much later. But this is of course true for many great thinkers and great books, which appeared in human history well before the invention of paper.
Jin’s arguments are not very bright. Its video looks like a social experiment by the CCP, and a successful one, as many Chinese netizens did take it seriously. This only shows that the Chinese educational system fails in educating its students about world history and philosophy, focusing mostly on China, Marxism, politics, and science. The theory that Aristotle did not exist may be ridiculed abroad, but if the CCP wanted to test just how much fake news about Western history and supposed Western conspiracies Chinese are prepared to swallow, the answer it got was—quite a lot.