Billionaire may be first tycoon on top party body

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2012, 12:00am

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One of the mainland's richest men, Liang Wengen, is a front runner to become the first private businessman on the Communist Party's Central Committee after being nominated as a potential delegate to the 18th party congress this autumn.

Liang (pictured), president of the mainland's biggest construction equipment group, Sany Heavy Industry, is among 72 candidates to attend the congress on a tentative list released by the Hunan provincial party committee on Sunday.

Hunan sent 63 people to the 17th party congress five years ago.

There have been calls for private businessmen to be allowed to join the Central Committee ever since they were allowed to join the party 10 years ago. Liang reportedly passed an assessment in the autumn by the Central Committee's organisation department, which controls party personnel assignments, and is likely to become an alternate member of the Central Committee.

An alternate member can be voted in to fill a vacancy on the Central Committee. According to party rules, a member or alternate member should have been a party member for at least five years. The existing Central Committee has 204 members and 167 alternate members.

Fang Ning , director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Political Sciences, said it would be great if Liang became the first private businessman to join the top party organ. 'It shows how China has changed in its social structure since its reform and opening up, and how this change will be reflected in the political system and the power structure,' Fang said.

Private business owners were banned from joining the party until its 16th party congress in 2002, when 'outstanding people from other social classes', including private business owners, were made a source of potential members.

In a speech in 2001, then party general secretary Jiang Zemin called such people 'constructors of the cause of Chinese-style socialism' and demanded for the first time that they be given equal political treatment.

Fang expects more entrepreneurs will join the Central Committee in the future if Liang succeeds in blazing the trail, adding that this will boost hopes for political reform.

Liang, 56, topped both Forbes' China's 400 richest list and the Hurun rich list last year, with net personal assets of US$9.3 billion.

His company, Sany, acquired a major German concrete pump maker, Putzmeister, in February. Liang was also among Vice-President Xi Jinping's delegation during a visit to the United States that month.

A party member since 2004 and a National People's Congress deputy between 1993 and 2007, he is reportedly a proactive enforcer of the Communist Party's red culture. Sany staff are required to attend a national flag-raising ceremony every morning and contests featuring the singing of revolutionary songs have been held in the company, China Economy & Information magazine reported.

A colleague was quoted as saying that Liang always asks whether a new member of the company's management is a party member when meeting them for the first time.