The Party and Private Entrepreneurs in the PRC
AbstractIn July 2001, Party Secretary Jiang Zemin announced that private entrepreneurs, among other 'outstanding' representatives of the new social elites, were welcome to join the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The move led to controversial ideological debates as it was widely interpreted as a clear signal that the communist party was finally turning capitalist. Things become less clear, however, when we look not so much at ideologies but at the actual facts. Realizing how little we know about the reality of relations between the CCP and private entrepreneurs, the aim of the paper is two-fold: The first is to collect and critically assess the information available on current developments of the 'private economy' (a vague notion in itself), and on the proportion of entrepreneurs who are already CCP members. Second, based on this analytical 'deconstruction' of statistical data and categories, the article delineates motives and strategies that might lie behind the new policy of formally admitting private entrepreneurs into the party. As will be argued, one important reason could be that the CCP, by co-opting entrepreneurs, attempts to (re-)gain access to the ever larger labour force employed in the growing non-public sector of the economy and thus to strengthen its organizational presence at the grassroots level. However, while we know something about the CCP's policy, much more needs to be known about the political preferences, attitudes and behaviour of private entrepreneurs. Therefore, instead of drawing macropolitical conclusions, the paper ends with an outline of relevant microscopic aspects of the relations between entrepreneurs and the CCP that deserve more indepth analysis in the future.