Interest Representation and the Transformation of the Chinese Communist Party

  • Zheng Yongnian East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore


At the 80th anniversary celebration of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on 1 July 2001, Jiang Zemin called on the party to admit into its ranks of 'outstanding social elements' of private entrepreneurs, professionals, technical and managerial personnel from non-state firms and MNCs. Party ideologues, however, have raised a great hue and cry. In order to establish his political legacy, the CCP leadership has intensified the campaign to educate its cadres and members. Reform and development have bourgeoisified and benefited many party members and cadres. Jiang's public support of the capitalists is not going against the tide but is a recognition of reality instead. In fact, to continue to grow and expand, the party must embrace the better educated and the most enterprising in society. The capitalists within the party will certainly be catalysts to quicken the transformation of the party. In its attempt to admit capitalists, has the CCP unknowingly let in the Trojan horse? Jiang Zemin's original aim may have been to strengthen the party-state by broadening its social base. And as the party metamorphoses, perhaps into a kind of social democratic party, Jiang will be favourably judged for paving the way for such a metamorphosis. Nevertheless, it is not an easy transition: insurmountable difficulties lie ahead for the party leadership.