Optimism expressed over reforms

Chinese cadres and intellectuals have expressed optimism the WTO deal will anchor the nation solidly towards economic, and eventually, political reform.

Last night, moderate officials and scholars compared the trade breakthrough to events in Sino-US intercourse such as Washington's recognition of China in 1979.

But they warned that, at least in the short term, the administration of President Jiang Zemin would take steps to ensure that market reforms would not spawn a new tide of 'bourgeois liberalisation'.

Moreover, the nation's influential conservative faction has remained opposed to the WTO, as well as liberalisation in other fields.

'After WTO, it will be that much more difficult for any leader to roll back the reforms begun by Deng Xiaoping,' said a member of an official think-tank in Beijing.

'Apart from market integration, the influx of foreign products, management concepts and culture will have a liberalising impact on politics and society.' A party source said yesterday the Politburo would, at least in the foreseeable future, take steps to ensure that anti-socialist ideas would not come in the wake of Western capital and goods.


This was despite the pledge by the Chinese negotiation team yesterday to open up further the telecommunications field, including mobile phones and the Internet.

Beijing has approved the annual import of as many as 20 movies from the United States. The door may also open wider for foreign participation in other entertainment businesses.

But Beijing is expected to continue the ban on joint-venture news media organisations at least in the near term.

Meanwhile, the so-called anti-WTO lobby remains strong. It consists of quasi-Maoist ideologues as well as cadres, workers and farmers who may lose their influence and jobs because of the influx of foreign goods.


The head of the Chinese negotiation team, Foreign Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng, said yesterday the talks had been successful because of the 'personal concern and leadership' of leaders of China and the US.

Analysts said Mr Shi was hinting that while the WTO enjoyed the support of top leaders such as President Jiang and Premier Zhu Rongji, it was a divisive issue among the bureaucracy and in the regions.


They said conservative cadres were taking advantage of Mr Jiang's fears of political instability to argue that extra tough measures should be taken against dissent in the post-WTO period.

For example, the crackdown on underground political organisations, the underground churches and 'cults' would be redoubled.

The ban on the publication of 'anti-socialist' material in the press and on the Internet would also be more forcefully enforced.


A Beijing editor said last night the clampdown on liberal opinion would be strengthened if unemployment and other negative phenomena were to worsen soon after WTO accession.