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Tue, Mar 05, 2002 - Page 21 News List

Chinese businesses want parliament to reduce intervention

AFP , BEIJING

A series of deputies to the annual gathering of China's parliament, beginning this week, have called on the government to sharply cut back its intervention in economic affairs, state media said yesterday.

The demands, ahead of the National People's Congress (NPC) session starting tomorrow, illustrates how far China's nominally-communist economic policy has reversed under two decades of market-based reforms. But whatever the changes since economic opening-up began, three deputies quoted Sunday by the Xinhua news agency insisted reform was not fast enough.

Fang Xiaoyu said bluntly the government must "improve its performance," especially in economic matters, and that this was the biggest challenge facing China following its entry last year to the WTO.

Authorities should stop intervening in business decisions made by state-owned firms or trying to develop certain industries, as these initiatives "could be best decided by businesses", Xinhua quoted Fang as saying.

Another deputy, Sun Qianfu, the manager of an alcoholic drink factory in central China, said his firm was having a "hard time" due to orders by local authorities to acquire other businesses and to diversify.

The government should keep out of economic affairs and instead concentrate on matters such as public services and the environment, they and a third representative said.

While such utterances could appear heretical in a country where the sole ruling party still styles itself as communist, the fact such demands are being covered by state-run media indicate the degree of official support they enjoy.

President Jiang Zemin's widely-touted personal contribution to communist theory -- the "Three Represents" theory -- decrees that the Communist Party is also the home of so-called "elite forces," including capitalists.

He has additionally proposed the deeply controversial plan of allowing private businesspeople to join the previously restricted party ranks. Almost 3,000 delegates are set to begin 10 days of discussions in Beijing today.

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