Feb 28, 2007

this is not your grandfather's communism

Those looking for a primer on China's increasingly tense relationship between central planning and capitalist development would do well to read Andreas Lorenz and Wieland Wagner's (five-page) introduction.
China is becoming increasingly difficult to control. Despite their immense power, the days are long gone when Communist Party leader Hu Jintao and his comrades -- unlike Mao in his day -- could enforce their will by decree into every last corner of the party.

To avoid open disputes, Beijing's leaders must resort to the tactics of maneuvering, fine-tuning, bargaining and scheming. Hu himself is in the process of expanding his power by placing his confidants in key positions. Those are just a handful of the efforts made to ensure that people continue to toe the party line. All party officials in high-ranking positions in the central government or in provincial administrations are required to attend training sessions at the central party school for at least one week each year. The party also operates schools throughout the country. All party officials in key administration positions are required to be ideologically rearmed once every five years.

The times are even changing at the central party school. Harvard professors occasionally teach at the school, and 300 senior party officials periodically attend refresher courses in political science and economics at elite American, French and British universities. Indeed, Armani suits replaced the Mao jacket long ago. Some officials already feel more at home at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland than in the Communist Party's neighborhood committees.

Nowadays, the party is also admitting representatives of private enterprise into its ranks, a movement put in motion by former President Jiang Zemin's "Theory of the Three Representatives." In the past, the party welcomed only the representatives of workers and farmers.

In taking these steps, the Communist Party is conforming to real conditions in China. The number of state-owned enterprises declined from 238,000 in 1998 to 150,000 in 2003. And although these companies received 65 percent of all loans -- from primarily state-owned banks -- they were only responsible for about one-fourth of total industrial production in China.
If their analysis is wrong--I'm no Sinologist--it's at least wrong in an accessible and engaging fashion.

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