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China praises Capitalists!

The Chinese Communist Party marked Labour Day by awarding private entrepreneurs the prestigious May 1 Labour Medal for the first time.
It is an indication of how far down the capitalist road China has come.

To honour capitalists as "model workers", something once reserved for state workers, is another significant development following President Jiang Zemin's landmark announcement last July that the party should open its doors to those once branded as "exploiters".

The mainland's private businessmen have never been treated as the political equals of the other classes, although Beijing has actively encouraged the development of private business.

When the late Deng Xiaoping launched his "open-door policy" in the late 1970s, private business contributed 1 per cent of gross domestic product. Now, it is estimated to contribute one third.

If a broader concept is used - including companies listed on stock exchanges, joint ventures with foreign participation, private agriculture and nominal collective companies - the private sector accounts for 50 per cent of the mainland's GDP.

The private sector has also played a key role in helping to reduce unemployment. It has taken on workers at a time when government efforts to boost the competitiveness of state-owned enterprises in the face of foreign competition has frequently resulted in retrenchments.

These developments emphasise the rising influence of private businessmen and underscore how economic changes will eventually alter the political landscape. It is also an attempt by the communist leadership to maintain the relevance of the party after two decades of reform have gradually transformed an economy that was once socialist but now sees more than half of the country's means of production in private hands.

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