We interviewed Deputy Tomás Hirsch due to his recent trip to China, where he headed the delegation of 16 leaders of the 9 Chilean ruling parties who were invited by the Chinese Communist Party, because we are interested in his humanist look on that country.

Pressenza: Tomás, after this intense journey that has allowed you to get a glimpse of China, how would you sum up the driving force behind the development model with Chinese characteristics and the point at which they are currently at?

Tomás Hirsch: It is very difficult to perceive what is really driving them. I think it would require much more informal, individual, intimate contact with ordinary people. But what can be perceived in such a short stay as ours is that there is a very strong purpose, that there is a very present historical look.

They feel very attached to their history. Beyond what one might have imagined, because one might have supposed that there was a kind of cut, a marked difference, between what was imperial China, what was the Republic of China before the Revolution of 1949 and the current process.

However, in the museums, in the conversations, in the meetings and different spaces, one sees that continuity is present and that, it seems to me, enriches them a lot because they rescue from the different stages of their history the elements that can be more evolutionary, as well as having profound criticisms of the elements that were regressive, or what we would call anti-humanist. All of that is projected in this transformative purpose into the future.

I am not trying to idealise, there are certainly many contradictions within Chinese society, there are certainly many issues that need to be processed, that can be perfected. There are also elements that are filtering through, which have to do with consumerism, with materialism, which are very characteristic of the capitalism that is also present in China today, as a social market economy, with Chinese particularities, but which has a very strong capitalist component, whose strong contradictions we are well aware of.

Therefore, I would say that it is a complex society, with great possibilities, great challenges, and also with many issues that will have to be overcome as they advance in their process of social development.

Photo by Alejandro Rodríguez

Pressenza: How did you perceive the common people, the people in the street, in general? tense, hurried, preoccupied or rather cheerful, optimistic, friendly and happy?

Tomás Hirsch: It is very difficult on a trip of this kind to know what the common people, the people in the street, are like, and the language barrier is insurmountable. English is spoken in a few academic or business environments, but not in the street. But what I could see is that there is a very strong social dynamic.

We were in China in the middle of the holiday season and we saw hundreds of thousands of people walking around the different places, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the village where Mao was born and grew up, the Great Wall of China, the oldest university in the world, etc. etc. etc. All the places were full of people walking around, taking photos, strolling, walking in a very good tone, with enthusiasm and a strong family bond. That’s what I could see.

In more intimate conversations, I noticed that they have the same preoccupations and fears that we have elsewhere on the planet. They also express them there: the fear of war, the perception of unbridled consumerism in their children, they are growing up in a society in which there are more and more possibilities for consumption and, of course, that certainly preoccupies them. At least that is what I was able to exchange with those I spoke to.

Pressenza: It seems that the Chinese state has a clearly outlined project for the future. How could you summarise it?

Tomás Hirsch: The impression I get is that there is indeed a very strong project, a purpose that drives Chinese society, both the state, the government and society in general. They talk about a project for the year 2035, which they call “a humbly developed country”, and an image, a project for 2050 that says we are already a developed country that has completely left poverty behind.

This purpose, one experiences it permanently.

One senses that there is something that pushes them strongly forward, and at the same time there is the feeling that it is not at the expense of other countries but with other countries. And that is something I found very striking.

They talk about competing, but competing without trying to crush the other, but each one runs on his own track and the one who goes faster wins. Like in athletics. In no way does it stop the guy next to you from running. And from that perspective, they have a profound and important difference with the style and model by which the United States has advanced in the world, which is at the expense of the inputs, resources or living conditions of other countries.

They clearly differentiate themselves from the model that the West has historically had.

Photo Pía Figueroa

Pressenza: From a humanist look, what are our ideological convergences and points in common?

Tomás Hirsch: I think that one convergence that can be highlighted is the idea of development by all and for all. This idea of New Humanism that if progress is not for everyone, it is progress for no one. It gives that impression too. That is to say, it is not just about growth for a few, although evidently there are still inequalities within China today, very, very significant economic differences, but they see this as part of a process in which it has been necessary for a few to drive private business development, to get rich, but that is what has also allowed them to generate a better level and a better standard for the vast majority of citizens, having removed it from poverty for more than 500 million people in the last 30 or 40 years.

So, there is a great deal of agreement with our look, which has to do with progress for everyone and for everyone, guaranteeing certain social rights such as health, education, housing and adequate pensions.

They talk about moving forward together with the least developed countries. It is very interesting that they see themselves not as part of the world powers but as part of the developing countries and therefore feel very close to the peoples of Africa, Latin America and an important part of the countries of Asia.

Pressenza: Seeing that the world is becoming more and more complex, do you think that China will be able to contribute to our aspiration for a single Universal Human Nation?

Tomás Hirsch: I believe that China can perfectly well contribute in that direction, of a Universal Human Nation.

It would be fantastic if one could also contribute the look of New Humanism, generate spaces for debate, exchange, discussion and joint work, in which one can be nourished by the process they have carried out, but also contribute the vision of New Humanism, which has elements that are very relevant and that can contribute to this process, such as the idea of an interiority present in the human being, a simultaneous social and personal transformation, a spirituality that impels the human being towards the world and in a transcendent sense, a search for connection with other spaces, with other planes, accompanying the process of social development and in a context of a joint search to advance in the direction of the Universal Human Nation.

I believe that there is space there and that we have to see how we can deepen the links that allow us to contribute in that direction.

Pressenza: Thank you very much for your responses Tomás and for your time!