Epigraph: Karl Marx, The Eigh teenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (New York:
International Publishers, 1994).
1 Wang Yanan is known in China—if he is known at all outside Xiamen and
his native Hubei—as the translator of seminal texts in po liti cal economy. His
renditions (with Guo Dali) of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx (Capital,
vols. 1, 2, and 3), and a host of others were until recently considered standard
translations of these classic texts (all the works since have been retranslated
several times). Born in Hubei Province in 1901, by the early 1920s, Wang
attended Wuhan Zhonghua University, where he studied sociology and eco-
nomics in the education department. In the late 1920s and 1930s, he studied
in Japan and traveled to Eu rope, coming to Marxism at that time. He did not
join the Chinese Communist Party until 1957, when he was imminently to be
denounced as a “rightist” and hastily enrolled in a bid to protect himself. As
the long- time president of Xiamen University in Fujian— appointed to that
post by Mao Zedong in 1950— Wang’s philosophical work soon gave way to
pedagogical issues. Wang died in 1969. His final illness was apparently pre-
cipitated by the Cultural Revolutionary strug gles at his university campus. His
reputation was restored in the early 1980s, and his collected works were edited
and published by a specially convened collective at Xiamen University, albeit
just in time for the turn away from Marxist po liti cal economy in China’s Deng-
ist era. He is now remembered in Xiamen as a martyr, while his economic
philosophy is rarely considered at all, clearly deemed outdated and too Marx-
ist for con temporary times. The Wang Yanan Institute at Xiamen University,
for example, is entirely given to research into econometrics; no one there does
research on Wang or on economic- intellectual-historical issues.
2 These nine essays were reprinted in 1981 as part of a larger anthology of
Wang’s work, published in connection with his po liti cal rehabilitation. Cita-
tions throughout are from the 1981 edition.
3 Wang Yanan, “Jingji kexue lun” [On economics], in Wang Yanan Jingji
Sixiangshi lunwen ji (wynjj), ed. Xiamen Daxue jingji yanjiusuo (Shanghai:
Renmin chubanshe, 1981), 1. Translations are mine unless otherwise noted.
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