JIANG Zemin has made it clear. The ''resolute measures'' used to quell the Beijing protests of 1989 were necessary to maintain social stability and economic development and the Government will do the same again if the need arises. The President's comments, made when meeting Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad just three weeks before the fifth anniversary of the June 4 massacre, were the strongest indication yet that despite China's remarkable economic progress, the Government was still unwilling to accept any form of political liberalisation or opposition to Communist Party rule. It could be argued that the Government is even less tolerant of dissent now than it was in 1989. Now it seems inconceivable the authorities will allow groups of disaffected workers, intellectuals and students to even get started, let alone develop into the kind of mass movement which virtually brought the capital to a standstill in May 1989. For example, they will never allow liberal academics such as astrophysicist Fang Lizhi and his wife Liu Shuxian to stage ''democracy salons'' on the lawns of China's most prestigious campus, Beijing University, where students were once encouraged to air their views on political, social and economic issues. Today, any open discussion of politics is tightly controlled by the school authorities and is limited to formal meetings on topics set by the university's party committee. Any unauthorised activity, no matter how innocuous, is rapidly broken up. They will never allow well known dissidents such as Wang Juntao and Chen Ziming, who were involved in the democracy movement for over a decade, to form a network of social and economic research institutions, correspondence colleges and publishing houses to collect and spread information outside the remit of the official propaganda organisations. Mr Wang and Mr Chen, condemned as the ''black hands'' behind the 1989 protests, operated with a relative degree of freedom in the mid and late 1980s and provided a forum for new ideas on China's economic development. They were ideas the party clearly wasnot ready for at the time. Today, political dissidents and democracy activists are more closely watched than ever before. Many of the best known members of the democracy movement such as Xu Wenli are under virtual house arrest and cannot leave their homes without being followed by public security officers in cars, on bicycle and on foot. Attempts to issue public demands for greater political freedom or the release of political prisoners are curbed and the perpetrators hauled in for questioning. There is no way campaigns similar to those in 1989 to save the outspoken Shanghai newspaper the World Economic Herald from closure and to free Democracy Wall activist Wei Jingsheng from ten years in jail, will be allowed to gain the momentum they did five years ago. In the spring of 1989 even ''old revolutionaries'' such as writer Bing Xin signed the petition to release Wei Jingsheng, an event which helped garner significant public support for the movement. Today, with five years hindsight, Ms Bing might have secondthoughts about doing the same again. But while the lid has been kept firmly shut on student and intellectual activists over the last year, the major focus of the authorities' clampdown has been on workers organisations. Worker dissatisfaction over rising prices and government corruption was the real force behind the mass protests in Beijing and other major cities in 1989. The authorities have been determined to prevent labour organisations such as the shortlived BeijingAutonomous Workers' Federation, established by Han Dongfang in 1989, from gaining a foothold in the factories again. THE authorities have launched a number of pre-emptive strikes against embryonic labour organisations, detaining more than a 100 activists over the past five years, most recently Mr Han's lawyer, Zhou Guoqiang and his colleague and Beijing University professor, Yuan Hongbing. With labour unrest on the rise again in many Chinese cities, it is easy to see why the authorities are anxious to stop workers' groups mobilising a potentially explosive movement which could pose a serious threat to Party rule. For the party, social stability must be maintained at all costs. Without stability, the party argues, there can be no economic development. Throughout Chinese history, the erosion of central authority has signalled the collapse of the dynasty, something which the party leaders are well aware of and perhaps no one more so than Jiang Zemin. It is believed Mr Jiang has been at the forefront of the crackdown on dissent and he has good reason to do so. Mr Jiang, who is also the party's General Secretary and chairman of the Central Military Commission, has more to lose than anyone else from a recurrence of social unrest. Mr Jiang knows well his two predecessors as party general secretary, Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, were purged after large scale student protests in 1986 and 1989. It has furthermore been suggested Mr Zhao's enemies in the party were quite happy to see thesocial discontent of the late 1980s boil over into fully fledged protests as a means of discrediting him and his liberal economic policies and eventually forcing him out of office. As an archetypal career politician and party insider, Mr Jiang will be keenly aware of any moves within the party to undermine his authority and is determined to demonstrate his resolve in dealing with social problems which could be used by his enemies to discredit him. The President's resolve has been further heightened by the failing health of patriarch Deng Xiaoping. Mr Deng was responsible for bringing Mr Jiang into the highest echelons of power and many observers believe without Mr Deng around to protect him, Mr Jiang could rapidly be removed from power. So when Mr Jiang says he is determined to maintain social stability at all costs, you can believe he means every word.