China lays down red carpet for capitalists

Reuters 11/08/02: Jeremy Page

Original Link:
http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=1702184

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's President Jiang Zemin has opened the Communist Party to the new capitalist rich to preserve its grip on power after he kicked off a congress at which his generation of leaders is due to retire.

Standing in front of a giant hammer and sickle in the Great Hall of the People on Friday, Jiang ruled out Western-style multi-party democracy and said the party would not abandon the peasants and workers who brought it to power in 1949.

But he told the 2,114 delegates the party had to adapt to wrenching economic changes that have created a demanding new middle class, put tens of millions out of work and opened a yawning income gap between cities and the countryside.

"We must move forward or we will fall behind," said Jiang, wearing a dark suit and red polka dot tie and flanked by China's top leaders, including the man expected to take his place as party chief next week, Vice President Hu Jintao.

The themes of the congress were to "keep pace with the times" and "build a well-off society in an all-round way", Jiang said in a speech outlining policy for the next five years.

"Whether we can persist in doing this bears on the future and destiny of the party and state," he said.

Outside, red flags and slogan-bearing banners were strewn around streets lined with glitzy office blocks and shopping malls highlighting the tensions between China's rigid political system and its breakneck capitalist-style economic development.

"It was quite a strong platform for carrying on economic reforms and continuing to broaden the support base and appeal of the party," one Western diplomat said of the speech.

"It was all framed at the start by the continuing of party rule and at the end by the importance of stability."

EYE ON SOCIALIST PANTHEON

The new leadership has been hammered out in extreme secrecy, underlining the sensitivity of what is supposed to be the first orderly transition of power in Communist China.

Hu, 59, is expected to take over the nation's top job and head the "fourth generation" of Chinese leaders after Chairman Mao Zedong, paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and Jiang.

But Jiang, 76, will pull the strings from behind the curtain by installing allies in key posts and having his theory on party reform written into its charter alongside Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory, Chinese sources say.

Jiang gave no clues to who will be the chosen ones. They will only be known for sure when they emerge from behind a screen in the Great Hall a day after the congress ends on November 14.

But in a break from precedent, he reviewed the 13 years since he took power after the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations ended in bloodshed and a leadership purge, rather than the usual five since the last congress.

"Jiang summing up 13 years of achievements shows he will step down from the party's number one position," said Wu Guoguang, an expert on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and a former editor of the People's Daily, the party paper.

Jiang, rumoured earlier this year to be reluctant to step down, also did not read the entire speech, prompting speculation about his health among Chinese reporters.

"Standing there for three hours delivering a speech is taxing even for the young," said one.

REVAMPING THE PARTY

Jiang urged delegates to follow his "Three Represents" theory -- subject of a Mao-style media campaign -- which says the party represents advanced productive forces, advanced culture and the interests of the vast majority of the Chinese people.

The theory will be added to the party's charter next week, formally allowing it to recruit private entrepreneurs, previously excluded as "capitalist exploiters", and others formerly deemed politically incorrect, Chinese sources say.

"We should admit into the party advanced elements of other social strata who accept the party's programme and constitution," Jiang said.

He defined the new "social strata" as including private entrepreneurs, employees of foreign funded firms, the self-employed and freelance professionals.

Leftist hardliners have accused him of betraying the party's Marxist roots since he proposed the plan on the party's 80th anniversary on July 1 last year.

But congress delegates, some in colourful ethnic minority dress, generally welcomed the message.

"The nature of the party has changed," said Niu Maosheng, governor of the northern province of Hebei. "Being afraid of hardship and death is no longer enough. You should be able to lead the masses to wealth and development."

Jiang also echoed Mao's refrain "Let 100 flowers bloom and 100 schools of thought contend" in a call for political openness.

Mao launched the Hundred Flowers Campaign in May 1957, inviting intellectuals to criticise the party and government, but cracked down a month later and sent critics to the countryside.

Dissent is no less risky 45 years on. Police have thrown a tight security cordon around Beijing and detained a prominent democracy activist, while censors have told Chinese reporters they will be jailed for leaking information about the congress.

Just before it opened, police hauled off two women who threw leaflets in the air outside the Great Hall. They also detained three women who tried to push their way to the entrance.

OLIVE BRANCH TO TAIWAN

Jiang also made an appeal for fence-mending talks with Taiwan which were suspended three years ago.

"On the basis of the one-China principle, let us shelve for now certain political disputes and resume the cross-Strait dialogue and negotiations as soon as possible," he said.

Taiwan said it welcomed talks as long as there were no preconditions. Beijing regards Taiwan as a rebel province that must be brought back into the fold, with force if necessary.

"That's one thing Jiang really hopes is going to be part of his legacy," said one Western diplomat. "Deng brought Hong Kong and Macau back into the fold, Jiang wants to bring Taiwan in."

Jiang repeated that China would not abandon the use of force but said the threat was directed at foreign interference.

On the economy, Jiang broke little new ground and largely rehashed existing reforms, saying China should expand state sector restructuring and boost income in the countryside where the majority of Chinese people live.

He also pledged to fight terrorism, corruption and "evil cults", a term applied to the banned Falun Gong spiritual group.

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