To compete with private sector, it must appoint on merit and reward initiative Politburo members have been getting to grips with how the Communist Party should manage the mainland's educated elite and its skilled workers - a task made more difficult by the mushrooming private sector. The emphasis will be on merit-based recruitment and advancement. At their meeting on Monday, the party's general secretary, President Hu Jintao, announced that a national work conference would be called to discuss the issue before the end of the year. In May, Mr Hu put on the agenda of the Politburo the 'urgent task' of recruiting and promoting talent to run the party and the government, so that China could meet the target of becoming a 'well-off society' by 2020. The central concept is of 'the party managing the elite', and the forthcoming national work meeting will address how it can corral a pool of talent that is no longer limited to its own cadres. Yang Fengchun, a professor of public administration at Peking University, said that in light of the rapid social changes, many members of the elite workforce no longer depended on the Communist Party for their professional advancement, economic gain or social status. To absorb these people into the party was an urgent task, he said. The 'management' of the elite implies that the party will use a combination of inducements and punishments, he said, but any reward system had to be aligned with the market economy, since the Communist Party competes with the private sector for the services of the elite. It must change its rigid system for staffing government posts, Professor Yang said. Reforming the outdated reward system goes to the heart of the political reform, which could be understood as putting the right people in the right jobs, one party veteran said. 'Many of the corruption cases are the result of the outdated reward system, which offers no incentive for innovation and breeds only corruption,' he said. With many in the party still clinging to the outdated egalitarian ideal, outstanding performance was not rewarded in any material sense, he said. A recent issue of the state publication Outlook Weekly said a merit-based system would foster respect for knowledge, skill and real contributions to society - essential for China to compete. That China needs not only to make better use of its own human resources but also recruit talent from abroad to improve its competitiveness was recognised long ago under Deng Xiaoping, party sources said. The new leadership's drive to attract world-class talent could open the door wider for foreigners to serve the government, they said.