Yes, Marxist theorists write about Digital China. Regularly, in fact. But I was surprised the first time I saw it too.

This time it is Professor Liu Guangming, Director of the PLA National Defense University’s Research Center for the Theoretical System of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, writing on the Central Committee’s Institute of Party History and Literature website. 

His April 2022 essay, titled “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era Achieves a New Leap in the Sinicization of Marxism” is actually quite interesting. In it, the term Digital China joins a longer list of Party initiatives and national-level strategies offering “goals and paths” to construct a Modernized Socialist Great Power. The list is non-standard, academic rather than authoritative, but still notable.

Digital China appears in sub-section of Professor Liu’s essay that deals with how one would construct a Modernized Socialist Great Power and what kind of great power that should be.

This essay sub-section includes the clause: “…in various areas of modernization, a number of goals and paths have been presented including a Science and Technology Great Power, Manufacturing Great Power, Quality Great Power, Cyber Great Power, Transportation Great Power, Digital China, “Building a Cultural Great Power 建成文化强国,” Talent Great Power, Education Great Power, and Healthy China.  This is a unusually large grouping, particularly with Digital China bundled in.  Groupings like this are normally smaller and more targeted.

That said, I understand his point and why he did it. All of these say something about what it will take to reach national rejuvenation. For its part, Digital China guides digital transformation of the nation, an essential step to achieve national rejuvenation, and a historic opportunity opened by the digital age.

Xi Jinping has been publicly describing the Digital China concept in its fullest context for nearly twenty years. I was surprised the first time I saw that too.

A point of clarification on translation: The very important term 社会主义现代化强国 is translated variously into English in Western publications and official PRC documents, but literally it is a “socialist, modernized great power.” Modernized Socialist Great Power best captures the Party intent, style, usage of the element 强国 in my view.