Fri, Nov 15, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Will the CCP follow the KMT?

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) concluded its 16th National Congress yesterday, with Vice President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) the only member of the Polit-buro to keep his post. President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and all other central committee members resigned. Now there is no doubt that Hu will take over as party general secretary. The smooth and orderly transition of political power is a happy affair for China.

TV footage of the congress shows delegates casting their votes in order. The voting results also came out as planned, an indication that the party maintains absolute control. The scene was reminiscent of the KMT's 5th National Congress in 1976, during which then president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) took over the party chairman's position following the death of his father, Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石). At that congress, central committee members all courteously followed the party's instructions and completed the transition of power.

The KMT and the CCP are fraternal twins born of the Soviet Communist Party's model -- but they followed very different paths of development. After retreating to Taiwan in 1949, the KMT followed an authoritarian capitalist road, liberalizing the economy while maintaining a tight grip on politics.

Later Taiwan's middle class became the mainstay of society and a driving force behind social and political liberalization. After the lifting of martial law and the ban on political parties and newspapers, the democratization process in Taiwan became irreversible. It led to the peaceful transition of political power in 2000 that saw the KMT become an opposition party.

Will the CCP follow in the KMT's footsteps? At this week's congress in Beijing, Jiang's "Three Repre-sents" dictum was incorporated into the party charter. The dictum labels businesspeople an "advanced force" on a par with labor and farmers. This has already sowed the seeds for qualitative change in the party.

The CCP can no longer claim to represent Maoist proletariat rule after a capitalist market mechanism was incorporated into "socialism with Chinese characteristics." Given the tremendous economic developments in Jiang's era, China no longer looks like a communist state. It uses its cheap labor, abundant resources and a huge market to attract investment and grab overseas markets. China is now more capitalist than many capitalist countries.

The CCP now looks like the KMT of 30 years ago -- a party facing the conflict between an open economy and an authoritarian political system. Economic development has created a formidable middle class and the party can no longer ignore this new force in society. The party must incorporate it. The people who attracted the most attention at this week's congress were not bureaucrats, but the new capitalist nobility.

The CCP's 16th National Congress marks the beginning of qualitative change in the party. The new generation of leaders must solicit help from business tycoons and the middle class to deal with the growing gaps between rich and poor and between regions as well as a rising unemployment rate. This in turn means party leaders must give more power to business leaders and the middle class to ensure their cooperation. This will be the beginning of quantitative change in the party.

The middle class was an important driving force behind the KMT's transition. Will it play a similar role in China? The just-concluded congress has planted the seeds for such change. Hopefully these seeds will grow into trees.

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