At a time when the discussion of Marxism has disappeared from China scholarship almost completely, the publication of a study that takes Chinese Marxism seriously is to be welcomed, especially as the study is by a scholar who holds this Marxism in great esteem. It is also an important historical reminder against the ideological forgetfulness of the present. It is too bad, then, that the study is guided not by a self-reflexiveness that comes with an appreciation of historical complexity and political wisdom, but a self-righteous dogmatism that substitutes tendentious interpretation for careful consideration of evidence. For all Chan's political professions, the study seems to be driven more by academic one-upmanship than by any serious theoretical and historical engagement that might contribute to furthering the political causes of the theory it upholds.
Chan's thesis can be summarized easily. “Sinologists,” beginning with Benjamin Schwartz in the United States, and under his dominating influence, have all missed the point about both Marxism and Chinese Marxism, first by declaring Marxism to be irrelevant to a peasant society such as China, and secondly, by therefore attributing the appeals of Marxism to the mediation of Lenin's interpretation of Marxism and the influence on Chinese radicals of the Russian Revolution and the Soviet Union. Against these “arguments,” he posits that: