But top party official says educating incompetent cadres will help curb rising tide of dissatisfaction among rural residents
A high-profile education campaign aimed at improving the quality of incompetent Communist Party cadres will only help to reduce the increasing number of protests over rampant corruption rather than fix the problem entirely, a senior official said yesterday.
In a rare press conference by a top party official, the vice-director of the Central Organisation Department, Li Jingtian , said the 'mass incidents' in China had arisen because local authorities had been incapable of dealing with widespread grievances among rural residents.
'Some of our grass-roots cadres are probably less competent and unable to resolve the conflicts that triggered the incidents.'
Mr Li's remarks, together with those by two other leading officials in the past week, point to increasing concern by the central leadership over a growing spate of riots and protests across the country. China saw more than 74,000 mass protests involving a total of 3.67 million people last year.
He said he believed the three-phase 'Advanced Education Campaign', launched at the start of the year by President Hu Jintao to engage the country's 69 million party members, would cut down on the number of protests.
'I believe that after the campaign, such mass incidents will be fewer, but I am pessimistic about the likelihood of stopping them altogether,' said Mr Li.
He admitted the effectiveness of the campaign had been hampered by a large number of local officials who only paid attention to satisfying higher-level authorities rather than addressing problems.
He emphasised that the campaign, which focuses on party members' self-education rather than meting out tough punishment for corrupt and incompetent cadres, should not be viewed as a political movement involving purges or rectification.
This month, the campaign is entering what Mr Li described as a 'more complicated' phase, involving 52 per cent of party members, notably including workers, teachers, and others in grass-roots social service sectors.
But he warned of an even more difficult task ahead, when the campaign moves on next year to the nation's vast poverty-stricken rural areas - significant sources of riots and clashes between farmers and local authorities.
Mr Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao have described three issues relating to rural concerns - dealing with the countryside, farmers and agriculture - as the government's most important tasks in its modernisation drive.
Mr Li cautioned against overestimating the effect of the campaign. 'One single, centralised education campaign cannot shoot down all problems or be a permanent fix.'
He denounced widespread speculation on overseas websites that thousands of party members had renounced their membership in recent months.
'They were false rumours spread by people with ulterior motives,' he said, adding that the party was appealing to a growing number of talented mainlanders.
He said 2.41 million members joined the party last year, up 8.2 per cent from the previous year.
Of the new members, 894 were private entrepreneurs. He said 49,000 members were purged last year.
The press conference, the first by a Central Organisation Department official, was hailed by the state media as the party's biggest step towards democracy and transparency.
It's back to school
The three phases of the Advanced Education Campaign for the nation's 3.4 million party organs and 69 million Communist Party members:
First half of 2005 (completed): party and government organisations at the county level and above, and a number of public institutions and enterprises, involving 801,000 grass-roots party organs and 13.85 million party members.
Second half of 2005 (under way): urban grass-roots organs and party and government organisations at the township level, involving more than 1.8 million grass-roots party organs and more than 30 million party members.
First half of 2006: party members in rural areas including about 790,000 party organs and 26 million party members.
Each unit is supposed to spend three months on centralised study and education followed by another two to three months to consolidate and expand on the rectification results.