[Marxism] China Focuses on Its Have-Nots

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Mar 4 13:39:45 MST 2004

(Cuba's close relationship with China means articles like
this should be of considerable interest to readers who
follow Cuban developments. In Cuba a series of important
reform measures have been made since the fall of the Soviet
Union. And it's widely and clearly understood that a genuine
level of social differentiation has occurred on the island
since the legalization of the US dollar in 1993, and later
the move toward using tourism as a mainstay of its foreign
exchange earnings. 

(Cuba's various reforms haven't gone anywhere near as far
as those we've seen in China, of course, but because China 
has very active economic relations with Cuba and vice versa
there's every reason to take a look at what a country which
has friendly relations with Cuba is experiencing right now.

(China has used its major opening up to foreign investment
quite effectively to accelerate economic development and 
has experienced extremely rapid growth in recent years as
well as various problems. The US has tried to force China
to put its currency on the float, which would force the
PRC to be subject to international market forces. China
has so far resisted this. Washington is now stuck because
so many US businesses have gotten so used to purchasing
Chinese products at extremely low prices. Though China 
and the West now have cordial diplomatic as well as active
economic relations, the capitalist sectors of the world 
have never forgiven China for its 1949 revolution. After
decades of blockade by the West, it decided under Nixon
that the carrot might work better than the stick in their
hopes of taming and re-capturing China. 

(We'll want to look at the details very closely once this 
session of the National People's Congress is concluded.)

March 3, 2004 6:40 p.m. EST 
China Focuses on Its Have-Nots

Annual Legislative Session
To Help Farmers, Others
Left Out of Economic Boom

BEIJING -- As thousands of delegates arrive for China's
annual legislative session, their top priority will be
helping those at the bottom: the country's farmers and
others who have been left behind amid the country's
economic boom.

Many of the 3,000-odd delegates attending the session,
which opens tomorrow, are from rural provinces that have
lagged behind the prosperous coast. The session's expected
emphasis on the disenfranchised also reflects the values of
the new leadership and its recognition of the dangers China
faces as a growing wealth gap threatens to spark widespread
public discontent and social instability.

"Although the government has done a lot [to help farmers],
it has been slow to put policies in place, and more farmers
have cherished enormous expectation" of the legislative
session, Wan Longjun, a delegate from Guizhou, one of
China's poorest provinces, told the official Xinhua news

The 10-day meeting is likely to approve several
long-expected amendments to the constitution, including
ones protecting private property and human rights. The
legislature also is expected to pass a budget that reflects
policy makers' concerns about the economy, which many
believe is showing signs of overheating, especially in such
sectors as steel and cement.

"The fiscal policy will be related to the macro policy: to
shrink the Chinese government's investments," said Ni
Hongre, a professor at the Development Research Center
under the State Council, or cabinet. She predicted the
government would trim its issuance of special stimulus
bonds -- long-term construction bonds -- by 30 billion yuan
($3.6 billion), or 21%, to 110 billion yuan. Total
central-government bond issuance is expected to remain at
about 2003's level of 615.4 billion yuan, she said.

To set the scene for the annual gathering, the State
Council and the Communist Party's central committee
recently issued a policy paper on rural overhaul. The
document earmarks 150 billion yuan to boost the rural
economy this year, a 30 billion yuan increase from 2003.
Beijing also plans to lower agricultural taxes imposed on
farmers, amid other tax overhauls.

Han Jun, a director at the State Council's Development
Research Center, said he hopes the legislative session will
go further and address the issue of land-use rights. "The
misuse of arable land is actually the hottest topic among
farmers," he said in an interview with China Radio

After more than two decades of economic overhaul, the gap
between the country's haves and have-nots has been
expanding rapidly. While many residents along the coast
lead prosperous lives, owning their own homes and cars,
many of China's 900 million farmers have been left behind.
So have many state-sector workers in China's northeastern
rust belt, with increasing numbers taking to the streets to
demand back wages or to seek a basic living allowance from
the state.

Such issues dominate the concerns of constituents and their
representatives. Though the legislature still is mostly a
rubber-stamp body, some lawmakers are trying to be more
responsive to their constituents and are becoming more
populist in their priorities.

Zhou Xiaoguang, an entrepreneur from the eastern city of
Yiwu in Zhejiang province, ran an ad on local television
this year asking Yiwu residents to send suggestions and
complaints. "I am the only National People's Congress
deputy from Yiwu in the last 15 years," she said. "I have a
responsibility to bring the voices of my constituency to
the congress."

Ms. Zhou said she received more than 1,000 phone calls,
letters and e-mails, which showed residents' No. 1 concern
was for China to strengthen its market regulations. Other
hot issues included land regulation, education, public
security and women's rights, she said. Ms. Zhou drafted
three dozen proposals to take to Beijing.

In the central province of Henan, four legislators asked a
local newspaper to set up a hotline to solicit public
views. It fielded more than 200 calls in eight hours, with
callers listing the plight of farmers and development of
rural areas, as well as occupational safety and food-safety
standards, among their top concerns.

Even some of the constitutional amendments are seen as
helping the downtrodden. For the first time, China will
include in its constitution a sentence that "the state
respects and protects human rights."

Fu Siming, a constitution expert at the Central Party
School for midcareer officials, said the inclusion of the
sentence reflects the values of Communist Party Chief Hu
Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. "The new leaders emphasize
that governmental power should be used for all people, and
economic development should benefit all people," Mr. Fu
said. "These are all tightly connected with human-rights
protection." Mr. Fu said the amendment could expand the
space for human-rights legislation in China, such as for
freedom of speech and movement.

Another amendment will give private property and the
private sector their strongest legal protection in more
than a half-century of Communist rule. The amendment, which
like the others has been approved by the Party, says
"citizens' lawful private assets are inviolable" and
commits the state to protecting private wealth and the
right to inherit it. Mr. Fu said the amendment would
encourage further development of the private sector, but
emphasized that Beijing must follow through with concrete
laws to protect private property.

China's private sector has expanded quickly amid two
decades of economic changes, generating many of China's new
jobs and accounting for a growing portion of its gross
domestic product.

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