BY EVA CHENG
The July 1 speech of Communist Party (CP) chief Jiang Zemin that the party should throw its door open to capitalists has provoked outrage among its ranks — prompting Jiang to close down at least four journals which printed critical articles.
Zhenli De Zhuiqui (the Pursuit of Truth) and Zhongliu (Mainstream), both published by party currents which oppose Jiang's capitalist restoration programs, were suspended in August. Internet magazines the China Bulletin and Tianya Zongheng have since suffered the same fate. All four publications criticised Jiang's advocacy of admitting capitalists into the party.
On August 15, Reuters quoted a source inside the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a backer of Zhenli De Zhuiqui, admitting that the academy had withdrawn its support due to immense pressure from Jiang.
In its May edition, the magazine carried an article by its chief editor, Yu Quanyu, entitled "An international joke: capitalists joining the CP". Yu, a former chief editor of the People's Daily, the CP's main mouthpiece, is prominent in China's "leftist" current — those who oppose the capitalist restoration program of Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin in favour of the bureaucratic "socialist" path pursued by Mao Zedong.
In the same edition, the magazine carried an article by Lin Yanzhi, deputy party chief of Jilin province, who advocated that Communist Party members who are also capitalists should resign. Lin wrote, "Allowing private entrepreneurs to join would imply that we legitimise exploitative ideas and behaviour within the party".
Another bombshell was thrown in early August by 17 "leftist" elders, led by veteran Deng Liqun who formerly headed the CP's propaganda department. Their internet open letter to the party's ruling politburo said that Jiang's July speech "immediately led to serious ideological confusion among comrades".
"With regard to such a comprehensive and fundamentally important [issue of] principle relating to the basic fate of the party and the nation, Comrade Jiang, without party Congress deliberation, cavalierly [announced the statement] ... to prepare for its forced passage."
"Comrade Deng Xiaoping has stressed: 'Party members must be workers and mustn't [be involved] in exploiting others' labour'", the letter noted.
"As [a] capitalist", it added, "as long as he/she has not turned against his/her own class, against the exploitative class, how can that person be an elite element of the proletariat class? As part of the exploitative class, how can a capitalist carry on a lifelong struggle for the realisation of socialism? This view of Comrade Jiang cannot stand."
But Jiang saw no such contradictions. Speaking to the New York Times on August 10, Jiang emphasised the importance of "improving" the views and thinking of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, who lived 150 years ago, "in light of changing historical conditions".
Jiang went on in a televised speech on the pitfalls of judging a person's "political integrity" by their property, claiming "his/her political awareness and contribution to building 'socialism with Chinese characteristics'" were more important.
In the People's Daily on August 28, Jiang asserted the party will benefit if it recruited "outstanding elements" from the new "social strata" because they would enhance the party's mass base and social influence.
He assured his readers that these "strata", under which he included capitalists, will be an important component of China's "socialist market economy". While Jiang may call them just a "stratum", China's emerging capitalist class is growing rapidly in numbers, wealth and influence within the state.
In a July statement, Jiang even lumped the employees of foreign firms with capitalists into what he called new social strata, emphasing that they "endeavour through honest labour and work".
On August 29, the official Xinhua News Agency stated that capitalists wouldn't become a majority of party members because "stringent" criteria would apply. It is extremely likely, however, that a rich minority will be able to pull strings, take advantage of the party's power monopoly to out-compete other capitalists and change the party's primarily working class character.
Only those who shared the party's principles would be admitted, Xinhua continued, adding that capitalist members would be educated to "reinvest a good sum of their after-tax profits to expand production", "be enthusiastic in charitable work" and "sincerely" strive for workers' benefits.
In a bureaucratic attempt to whip the party's 65 million members into line, Jiang has launched a campaign to force members to study his July 1 speech.
The campaign is part of his attempt to push his "Three Represents" theory, which aims to give a vulgar "Marxist" cover for his capitalist restoration policy. The "theory" asserts that the CP represents the advanced productive forces, the advanced culture and the fundamental interests of the majority.
Jiang has been seeking support for this stance for years, even though it was adamantly rejected by a resolution of the top party leadership in August 1989.
While it's hard to gauge the depth, extensiveness or exact political orientations of Jiang's opponents, it's clear they are also in the party's top echelons.
According to Asia Times on August 23, Jiang, Zhu Rongji, Hu Jintao, Li Lanqing and Wei Jianxing, all politburo members, abruptedly aborted the top leaders' annual summit in Beidaihe resort in mid-August, leaving Li Peng and some retired elders behind.
According to CNN senior China analyst Willy Lam, Deng Liqun and fellow "leftists" even converged at the same time in a resort close to Beidaihe to plot strategies against Jiang's "revisionist" line. The split is expected to take further shape at the CP Central Committee's next meeting, scheduled for the end of this month.
Based on past practice, many analysts expect the blueprint for the reshuffling of the party's top rungs, scheduled to be formalised at its once-in-five-years Congress in late 2002, will be more or less decided at the upcoming CC gathering. The dust may not settle so soon this time round.