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Jiang's Postscript!

Dr. Raviprasad Narayanan was Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • August 21, 2006

    Calling upon party members to study the Selected Works of Jiang Zemin (SWJZ) in line with a decision taken by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), President Hu Jintao termed the publication and issue of the SWJZ "a major event in the political life of the party and state." Earlier, an editorial in the People's Daily trumpeted the publication of the SWJZ as "offering a powerful weapon of ideology for China's construction of socialism with Chinese characteristics and increasing the spiritual strength of Chinese people to build a well-off society in an all-round way." Significantly, the Liberation Army Daily carried a circular issued by the General Political Department (GPD) that called for the entire People's Liberation Army (PLA) and People's Armed Police (PAP) to study the SWJZ including the theory of the "Three Represents." The circular praised the SWJZ for "recording the historical process of how the third-generation central leadership with Jiang Zemin as the core led the entire party and the people of all ethnic groups throughout the country to press forward the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics."

    The decision to compile the SWJZ was made by the CPC Central Committee in November 2003. The three volumes of SWJZ comprise 203 of Jiang's reports, speeches, articles, letters, inscriptions and decrees from August 1980 to September 2004. The books, compiled by the Party Literature Editing Committee and published by the People's Publishing House, elaborate on the important thoughts of the Three Represents. The Three Represents is one of the guiding theories for the CPC together with Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, and Deng Xiaoping Theory.

    In the reform era, economic growth and the improvement of living standards, rather than revolutionary ideology or democratic procedures, are the main source of the Party's political legitimacy. Jiang Zemin saw in the Party a vehicle of social, economic and cultural progress. This was reflected in his call for the implementation of the Three Represents. The amended Constitution of the People's Republic of China following the 16th Party Congress in 2002 enshrined the Three Represents as one of the ruling theories of China.

    The Three Represents state that the CPC must always represent:

    • The development trend of China's advanced productive forces.
    • The orientation of China's advanced culture.
    • The fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people.

    The Three Represents had been formulated to ensure that the Party expands its membership to include private entrepreneurs, redefine its societal role, modify its core tenets, and institutionalise its rule. Party conservatives introduced the Three Represents, since sections within the CPC felt that economic reforms had actually weakened the legitimacy of the prevailing socialist ideology by introducing and expanding various forms of private ownership, encouraging income disparities, and, in some cases, causing serious corruption.

    According to a People's Daily report, the first volume of the SWJZ comprises 81 articles, starting with Jiang's explanation for the establishment of special economic zones in the southern and eastern provinces at the 15th Session of the fifth National People's Congress in August 1980. The second volume comprises 59 articles during the period September 12, 1997 to February 1, 2000. Jiang's report at the 15th CPC National Congress on promoting the socialist course with Chinese characteristics is included in this volume. The third volume, including 63 articles, starts with Jiang's speech on the Three Represents made during his inspection in China's Guangdong Province on February 25, 2000. The volume ends with Jiang's speech at an enlarged meeting of the Central Military Commission on September 20, 2004, after he resigned as chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission.

    Of interest to Sinologists will be Jiang Zemin's interpretation on the development of Marxism in China and his theoretical contribution in the fields of economy, politics, culture and society, as well as foreign affairs, national defence and administration of CPC, the state and army. Being the first technocrat to head the CPC, Jiang's views on China's 'socialist market' economic system, agriculture, reform of state-owned enterprises, and the development of western China will add to existing literature, although it is a moot point whether Jiang's views would be any different from official statements and interpretations.

    Apart from the opaqueness that characterises the Chinese political system and the official encomiums in praise of the SWJZ, the publication of the three volumes reflects the inevitable jockeying and posturing in the run up towards the 17th Party Congress to be held in 2007. Though Hu Jintao wears 'three hats' - President of the People's Republic of China (PRC), General Secretary of the CPC and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) - he is yet to demonstrate a comprehensive power base that will enhance his position as the 'core leader' of the 'fourth generation'. When Jiang Zemin was at the helm, he had assiduously cultivated the PLA to be on his side and was often referred to as the 'core leader' of the 'third generation.' The closest titular acceptance Hu has earned from the PLA is that of 'Chairman Hu' with which he has to be satisfied for the moment. The publication of SWJZ also indicates the strength and loyalty quotient of the 'Shanghai faction', which owes its allegiance to Jiang Zemin. The most visible member of the 'Shanghai faction' and representing it at the very highest levels of the Chinese political system is Vice President Zeng Qinghong who also heads the Central Party School - the cradle for future CPC leaders and party policies.

    The publication of the SWJZ reveals two aspects. First, the compilation of Jiang Zemin's speeches and official views on important issues is to be seen as communicating regime values to the Party rank and file and to the whole population. Second, the factional competition for securing high positions in the party and state apparatus has begun with an eye on the 17th Party Congress next year. In the highly nuanced politics that prevails in Beijing, the very release of a book might indicate the onset of political challenges that Hu Jintao may have to contend with even as he tries to establish a strong base for himself.