[VIEWPOINT]Fitfully, change coming to China

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[VIEWPOINT]Fitfully, change coming to China

Watching the extensive changes in the political leadership in China after the 16th Communist Party Congress, it is interesting to think about whether the reforms, limited so far to the economy, will spread to the political sphere.

It is meaningful that President Jiang Zemin's "Three Represents" theory was established as a new governing principle at the last party congress. The theory is an ideological framework for the class-oriented principles of the Communist Party to adapt to internal and external changes. It calls for the party to represent the needs of entrepreneurs, those in the arts and culture and the proletariat, the party's original roots and still its theoretical reason for being.

The reform and opening of China in the past have led to weakened authority of the party, and the rapid economic and societal transformation has stirred significant changes in the party's class orientation. The Communist Party's ability to adjust to these changes has eroded.

The Chinese political system does not allow multiple parties, but the political weight of new Chinese social classes with diversified social interests will rise dramatically. If the party cannot absorb these new forces, it will lose the social base that is necessary for its survival and development. For the party to attract the emerging classes, ideology and the law must change. The Three Represents theory is expected to work as a viable ideological and legal instrument that gives the new forces the right to participate in the party. The party did not limit its class roots to the proletariat alone, but reached out to entrepreneurs working in what China calls "the socialist market economy." Some outmoded, anti-entrepreneurial clauses in the party's platform were deleted, and a new provision was added saying that the party is not only the spearhead of only China's proletariat but also of the Chinese people and all ethnic Chinese.

China's new leadership is expected to take its cues from the Three Represents theory. it will also actively promote changes in the party in line with the transformations in social classes and the emerging diversification of interests and ideology. Meantime, they will fully integrate the new forces, including entrepreneurs, into the party.

Integrating these new forces into the party will destroy the clear ideological focus of the party and further weaken ideological solidarity in China, which may result in significant pressure for political reform. An anticipated future market reform that should come with China's entry into the World Trade Organization will add to the pressure. When the market economy takes root in China, becomes more than an instrument to increase productivity and develops into an essential value of Chinese society, ordinary people will have a heightened sense of freedom, equality, competition and political awareness.

That will in turn result in the nurturing of the necessary conditions for democracy and political development.

The political inclinations of the third- and fourth-generation leaders, who are still in the mainstream and look disapprovingly at political pluralism, will limit the speed of political reform.

Political changes in China will come with a premise that the monopoly by the Communist Party will remain intact, but will aim at transforming the existing party characteristics of a proletarian revolutionary party in a way that accommodates more diversified interests.

Until the fifth-generation leaders, who came to power in the process of political diversification and market economy, become the mainstream in China's political leadership, we are likely to see a prolonged period of transition in Chinese politics as the leadership tries to adapt to change.

* The writer is a professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs & National Security.

by Park Doo-bok

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