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Monday, October 20, 2003

Chinese Politburo Meet on Reform Agenda

It's decision time at the CCP. Very difficult to say in advance just how far reaching these decisions will be. China is changing, but how far and how fast is a matter of big debate and uncertainty.

The Chinese Politburo will meet this weekend to decide how to complete its transition to a market economy by 2010 and to introduce greater accountability among top party officials. This time, a timetable is expected to be set, said the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

The policies set up ten years ago, involving areas as financial reforms and modernisation of the social-security system would be revised and updated during the 24-member Politburo’s meeting. Particular attention will be paid to the money-losing state sector, the privatisation of more state owned enterprises and passing or updating a series of laws necessary to adapt to an open-market economy, reported the US newspaper.

An important topic of discussion will be the proposal of amendment of the constitution concerning private business. The growing concerns from the private sector on how to defend they properties could lead to an amendment proposal to the constitution to give protection to citizens' property rights. This in spite of the fact that Party chief Hu Jintao faces a party division over this traditionally anathema to China's communist system. One option under consideration is to propose a watered-down version of the amendment, such as calling for protection of "citizens' property rights" or of "legal private assets." Several high-profile corruption cases involving private businessmen have provided ammunition for opponents of the proposed change, said the Wall street Journal.

When it comes to party democratisation matters, the Politburo is expected to submit a report on its performance for scrutiny by the Central Committee, the party's 356-member policy-making body, during the plenum. It would be the first time that top leaders will be held accountable to another group, and the arrangement is expected to be formalised with reports given on at least on annual basis. Any amendments would have to be approved by the legislature next March.

Another key item on the agenda is an initiative launched earlier this year to assist northeast China, a once-prosperous centre of heavy industry, now with a huge number of failing factories and high unemployment. Northeast politicians are lobbying for concrete policies to ease the severe unemployment, especially in coal-mining cities where mines are played out. The social-security system currently covers only half the province's three million unemployed, said the US newspaper.

It remains to be seen how much of an impact the plenum's new policies will have. In the past, other leaders have set ambitious timetables for implementing economic reforms without attaining them. Former Premier Zhu Rongji, for example, vowed when he was promoted to the post in the late 1990s that he would reform the state and banking sectors within three years, two tasks that today remain high on the new regime's agenda.
Source: China Biz

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