Jiang's party turns a brighter shade of red

Asia Times

BEIJING - The code words were "red" and "expert", and "red" always meant loyalty to the party leadership while the meaning of "expert" changed from time to time.

At the time of the Cultural Revolution, experts were the peasants, workers and soldiers who were marshaled in the Chinese Communist Party to renew its purity after the bureaucratization due to Liu Shaoqi's influence. Under Deng Xiaoping, the experts were those who held university degrees, the technocrats who lead the party now. Under Jiang Zemin, the meaning of "expert" is set to change once more; the experts will be those who have managed to push forward the national economy and the country, that is the entrepreneurs who last July 1 were encouraged to join the party.

Thousands of entrepreneurs all over the country are being coaxed into joining the party in a drive to renew its rank and file to better reflect the most advanced economic forces. Possibly as many as 200,000 entrepreneurs will be enrolled in the coming months, making the party really multi-class and no longer only the expression of the proletariat (see also All invited to Jiang's party, August 8).

This number, out of some 60 million members, most of whom are soldiers and farmers, can hardly make the Communist Party bourgeois. It should however serve the purpose of bringing into the party the sectors of society that contribute the largest part of the country's gross domestic product. The interests of these entrepreneurs will be directly voiced in the party decision-making process, avoiding the risk that this group, possessing such great economic power, could independently organize its own political representation to defend its assets - in other words, form an opposition force.

This is particular important now, as the National People's Congress (NPC) prepares the draft of a new law on private property. The law should reflect the "real situation", NPC chairman Li Peng has been quoted as saying. This means that many de facto private properties should be turned into de jure private assets.

The law is intended to serve the needs of the growing middle class and it is thus important that entrepreneurs are consulted, so that the law meets their requirements. The implementation of the law, and the subsequent approval of a Civil Code that should regulate and increase economic transactions, are intended to help the businesspeople. Furthermore, party membership would protect many entrepreneurs who in the past have been harassed by local authorities trying to squeeze money out of them by more or less legal means.

The newcomers, because of their numbers, are in no position to change the overall balance of the party; for this reason they will be given important honorary posts, with large consulting influence but probably without direct government responsibilities that would create a blatant conflict of interests.

As entrepreneurs are accepted into the party, left-wingers must be allowed to retain their role, to avoid their flight and the possibile establishment of a new revolutionary party that could challenge the party leadership by organizing a violent revolution or a coup. As it is, left-wing opposition to the ongoing reforms has been brought largely under control. The campaign of study of Jiang's theory of the Three Representatives has been going on for years and it has built a wide consensus in the party rank and file about the necessity of change.

The party elders, who in the past were the most resistant to change, have also largely changed their attitude. Many of them have children involved in business; and furthermore the present leadership has given the elders houses that are now worth millions of yuan, plus large cash handouts to refurbish those houses - although the leadership did not check on how that money was spent.

By drawing the new rich and middle class into the party and muting left-wing opposition, the social situation seems reasonably under control. The peasants, while flaring up in confined protests against heavy taxation by local leaders, have been given hope of improving their lot by moving to the cities, a possibility that will come into being after October 1 when they may apply to change their residence to small and medium cities.

The Falungong protests have been muffled and although all kinds of odd religious

beliefs keep springing up, they do not seem likely to pose any major threat for the time being. Workers' protests have been also receding after the peak of 1999, as most of those laid off have been finding new jobs or have received some compensation for the job they lost.

At home, then, after initial social clashes due to the reform of state-owned enterprises that made both workers and many party cadres unhappy about the political direction, the party has managed to establish a new consensus. Most people now have a stake in not rocking the boat - they could lose their jobs, their houses, or the chance to move to a city, if there were a revolution. Abroad, the situation appears to be improving and should continue to do so following US President George W Bush's visit to China in October.

Given all this, Jiang could try a decisive push to enshrine his theory of the Three Representatives in the party constitution at the next Congress in 2002. That could guarantee that the party could not turn the tide of the present changes, and thus open it to further political reforms aimed at a thorough and healthy exchange of ideas between the right and left wings.

This opens the way for the democratization of the party - and a change in the meaning of "red". As the party will reflect the interests of all people, and not simply those of the proletariat, loyalty to the party leadership will be loyalty to the greater interests of the country. (2001-09-12 Asia Times)


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