All invited to Jiang's party

Asia Times

ROME - In terms of business, the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) needs to introduce a definite line between what is legal and what is illegal so that the parameters of corruption are clearly established. Through such an effort, the party will not become the domain of the capitalists, or remain the party of the workers - it will be, as it is now, an interclass party.

Indeed, many Western parties have been established on an interclass basis, or were forced to become so in trying to win democratic elections (where the majority of voters were working class) and to withstand pressure from purely class-related communist parties.

The most successful example is that of the Christian Democrats (CD) in Italy, which had the daunting task of facing the strongest communist party of the Western world. The CD also had the unique support of the Vatican, which was firmly anti-communist and firmly popular. The Vatican could draw on the deep experience of keeping together the rich and the poor for the common cause of the unity of the church.

As Rome would say, mutatis mutandis, (with all due adjustments or modifications made for the particular thing mentioned or discussed), one could argue that the CPC is drawing from this experience, keeping in mind the interests of the less fortunate, catering for their good, but not forgetting the stronger interests of the capitalists, and holding both together for the higher goal of China's development, both in culture and pride as well as in economic matters.

The CD experience was so successful that, especially at the beginning, it held at once the views of those who were in favor of the reactionary monarchy and those of people who had a social agenda very similar to that of the communists.

Equally, the CPC keeps together old Maoists and people who could sit in any Wall Street company. This similarity in spirit was incidentally one of the reasons why the CPC had better ties with the Italian CD and the socialists, whose government under premier Giulio Andreotti and vice premier Gianni De Michelis was the first to open to China after Tiananmen, than with the Italian communists.

This similarity continues today. The Vatican and Beijing have curiously similar positions on the Group of Eight (G-8) countries. Both are skeptical of a forum where the poor nations are not represented; but both accept, but with reservations, the on-going process of globalization. Although having different aims, both are aware of the demands of the less fortunate, of which other countries and parties are often oblivious.

Keeping in mind that having both sides of the political spectrum in a party makes sense for economic reasons as it is useful for the redistribution of wealth, it also caters to social demands, and thus it is the best guarantee against huge social protests, and such a system favors continuity. The thousands of years of history of both the Vatican and the Heavenly Empire ensure that their ruling elites pay sufficient attention to the necessity to hand down their empires, and their main goal is continuity, as well as development.

This long experience suggests that an exclusive club of the rich can be useful for some purposes, but it cannot work for everything, as some G-8 advocates claim. Yet neither the Vatican nor Beijing goes so far as to oppose the G-8 or globalization, as the global ultra-Left does.

Opposing globalization would be suicidal, and in fact China is one of the countries that has managed to surf the globalization wave for its own profit - indeed, it has thrived on it. Conversely, opposing globalization, opposing the role of entrepreneurs and denouncing all-encompassing corruption without confronting a more legally-defined corruption would slow down or even halt China's development. And yet the enemies of China, those who work for its containment and who spread the idea of China as a threat, are afraid of China's fast development and want to stop it.

So it is that both conservatives in China and the outside appear to wish to stop China's economic growth, albeit for different reasons. Are these Chinese Leftists aware that in criticizing Jiang's overtures to entrepreneurs (to have them included in the Communist Party) they de facto pursue the same aim as China's enemies?

In this light, Jiang appears to cast a bigger shadow than many expected when he came to power some 10 years ago. Among his contributions, there is the attempt to shape this multiclass party ideology that could help China in its modernization drive while maintaining the stability so dear to the Party, and to Chinese and foreign enterprises for their businesses.

The goal is to eventually deliver many parties from the womb of the one Communist Party. At first, different party currents could take shape and start developing within the large party framework, and ultimately different parties could be born out of these currents. This process could go on as long as the huge social changes now taking place in China continue, and thus the formal unity of the party could prevent a social revolution, in the way that the CD's unity helped to prevent an Italian social revolution.

The fear in the Party is that too early a relaxation of political restraints could give head to those wanting radical change and radical wealth distribution. There are many reasons to argue for more social welfare, and greater wealth distribution in China; however, radical moves in this direction could capsize the boat and stop development, engulfing China in, at the minimum, violent and widespread social clashes and a form of internal war.

The Vatican and CD experience of democracy and debate within a framework of unity could thus be a valuable asset for the CPC in this troubled period of change. This seems to be the road chosen by Jiang, which is certainly neither very communist nor orthodox, but it has so far proved the correct course for China, to the scorn of the Leftists. Unless, of course, the Leftists wish for Mao's times, when China did not care about the rest of the world and it fed itself the delusion of an unattainable Utopia.

Part 1: China must draw the line on corruption ( (2001-08-08 Asia Times)


+MoreOther Commentary