Speaking of Marx
Allen T. Cheng, BEIJING
Reporters at the NPC got a surprise when they asked entrepreneurs from Zhejiang what Karl Max would think of them. 'He would be proud that China has prospered so well following his ideology,' said Lo Zhongfu, the chairman of the Guangxia Group. 'He would also see that some Zhejiang people have brighter ideas than he did.'
Reporters could not help but laugh nervously at Mr Lo's audacity. Guangxia is the 100th largest enterprise in China and one of the mainland's largest private enterprises, with assets worth an estimated 15.9 billion yuan. But Marx remains a sacred figure in the pantheon of the Communist Party of China.
Still, Mr Lo and other entrepreneurs felt free to speak frankly about Marx, Lenin - and the party, for that matter - at a recent gathering attended by NPC delegates from Zhejiang, a major centre of private enterprise on the mainland.
'If Karl Marx came to visit me, he'd be impressed,' said Zong Qinghou, the chairman of beverage giant Wahaha Group. 'If he came 20 years ago he would have seen that everyone was poor and starving. Twenty years ago, 10 people worked to support 10 people. Today, five people in Zhejiang work to support 10 people. This shows how far we have come.'
Mr Zong did not say, and perhaps did not need to say, that Marxism, Leninism and Maoism were still being promoted enthusiastically in China 20 years ago, while today they have largely been discarded. The party and the government still publicly endorse the three as important, revolutionary ideologies. But the inclusion of former leader Jiang Zemin's theory of the Three Represents in the constitution this month essentially nullifies the party as a revolutionary organ and confirms it as a governing body.
Now the party needs to create jobs and raise revenues, which means it must continue to foster the private sector, as 25 years of reforms tell us. But why have so few entrepreneurs joined the party? Only about 0.5 per cent of the mainland's entrepreneurs have signed on since Mr Jiang's 2002 invitation to do so.
Perhaps if the party and the government wanted to rev up the real engines of future growth, they should amend the constitution even further. A key change would be to discard the paragraphs that say China is a nation ruled by peasants, workers, soldiers and other non-property-owning individuals.
Peasants, workers and soldiers currently make up a small proportion of the mainland's taxpayer base. Increasingly, private entrepreneurs, foreign enterprises and their legions of employees contribute to the bulk of the revenues. To truly reflect the new, emerging China, the NPC needs to modernise the constitution even more than it did in the past two weeks.