Xinhua News Agency

Workers 'to remain leading class'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 12:00am

The working class will remain China's leading class, representing the country's advanced production forces, the mainland's top union chief said yesterday.

'The nature of our party, our country and the historic position and role of the working class have determined that we must unswervingly uphold the basic guiding principle of serving the working class wholeheartedly,' Wei Jianxing, chairman of the All China Federation of Trade Unions, told a seminar in Beijing.

The comments by Mr Wei, a Politburo Standing Committee member, come ahead of the annual Beidaihe meetings, where the mainland's leaders are expected to discuss the revision of the party's constitution to admit private entrepreneurs. Sources said the meetings were expected to begin later this week.

Mr Wei's remarks featured prominently in the main news programme last night. They also follow an article run by Xinhua and to be published in the party publication Qiushi declaring that private entrepreneurs would never constitute an independent class.

Analysts said the timing of Mr Wei's remarks and the Qiushi article was significant as they were meant to influence the Beidaihe talks.

A commentary released yesterday by Xinhua said the status of the working class as masters of the country had not changed, although some working-class people had experienced 'changes in their working posts'.

It attacked some local authorities and companies for ignoring the interests of workers who had been laid off during efforts to reform state-owned enterprises. Officials have warned that as the country pushes for further state sector reforms, the unemployment situation will worsen.

A spokesman for the State Statistical Bureau, Qiu Xiaohua, said yesterday that urban unemployment stood at about four per cent, with seven million workers jobless at the end of June. Economists said the actual figure was much higher, at 15 to 20 per cent.

The admission of entrepreneurs into the Communist Party forms a major part of President Jiang Zemin's 'Theory of the Three Representatives', which calls for the party to represent the advanced production forces - including capitalist entrepreneurs - the most advanced culture and the interests of the masses.

But the theory has triggered a fierce debate within the party's ranks, where some ultra-conservative elements have claimed private business owners exploit workers and that the party has failed to stand up for the working class.

Some analysts have expressed concerns that Beijing's latest drive to crack down on tax evasion by private business people might carry some political significance. It might be part of the government's efforts to placate the party's ultra-leftist forces.