Chinese leader warns party must adapt or die

John O'Neill johnfergaloneill at
Sat Nov 9 11:15:59 MST 2002

Chinese leader warns party must adapt or die
>From Jasper Becker in Beijing

  CHINA: China's leader, Mr Jiang Zemin, has ruled out Western democracy for
China but warned the China Communist Party's 66 million members they must
"keep pace with the times" to stay in power.

At the opening of the 16th Party Congress, he warned that the party must
adapt or die. "We must move forward or we will fall behind," he said.
"Whether we can persist in doing this bears on the future and destiny of the
party and state."

In a hint that he was about to retire, the 76-year-old General Secretary
looked back on his 13 years in power with satisfaction, saying the party had
survived the upheavals that had brought down the Soviet Communist Party and
other revolutionary movements.

In a 90-minute speech, Mr Jiang described how the party could continue in
power and promised that the country would be democratic and prosperous by
the middle of the century.

He continued to stress that the party must maintain its iron grip on all
areas of the state to guarantee "social stability" but dropped vague hints
that it had to change the way it ruled.

He called for "developing socialist democracy" saying it is "essential to
expand citizen's participation in political affairs" and necessary to ensure
human rights are respected.

"We should establish and improve an inner-party democratic system," he said.
"Political restructuring must help enhance the vitality of the party and

However, he also praised the People's Liberation Army which brought him to
power when it quelled the nationwide pro-democracy protests in 1989. "The
party's absolute authority over the army is the eternal soul of the army."

Mr Jiang elaborated on a plan to broaden the party's power base so it would
represent all classes, not just the working class, while jettisoning Marxism
as quickly and as decently as possible.

In a speech noticeable for the rare references to Marx, Engels, Lenin,
Stalin or Mao, Mr Jiang often lapsed into management babble. He foresaw how
his country would be "blazing a new trail to industrialisation" by relying
on new technologies, and above all information technology.

He promised to do more to help the losers in the reforms, the 30 million
thrown out of work by the restructuring of state-owned industries, and the
hundreds of millions of peasants still mired in poverty. Yet his speech give
few clues on how a functioning welfare system would be created.

Mr Jiang reserved his greatest enthusiasm for hi-tech venture capitalism on
the US model. "It is like a religion for him," said one Western diplomat.

This party congress will formally endorse the entry into the party of a "new
social strata" including private entrepreneurs and the retirement of "third
generation" leaders, including himself.

Mr Jiang's tone was more relaxed than in the past. There was less talk of
the grave external threats facing the party and he unexpectedly proposed
resuming talks with Taiwan, which were broken off three years ago.

© The Irish Times

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