Publication: China Brief Volume: 2 Issue: 25

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam

While the Chinese Communist Party pledged at its 16th Congress barely six weeks ago to justify its mandate of heaven by building a “comprehensive well-off society,” it is also beefing up the country’s control mechanism to squash challenges to the socialist order. Rhetoric aside, President Jiang Zemin and new party chief Hu Jintao are but following Deng Xiaoping’s so-called double-fisted approach to achieving the proverbial “long reign and perennial stability”: The dictatorship of the proletariat must continue to be imposed even as the country focuses on economic construction and market-style reforms.

On the one hand, the CCP has promised to boost GDP from around US$1.2 trillion to at least US$4.4 trillion, and to raise the per capita share of GDP from the current US$800 to around US$3,000 by 2020. Moreover, the social stratum with middle-level income [middle class, seen as the most important pillar of stability in 21st century China] will be augmented. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences sociologist Lu Xueyi has indicated that Beijing plans to increase the middle-class share of the population from 18 percent to about 40 percent in twenty years’ time. Experience abroad, Lu noted, has shown that the middle class “tends to identify itself with the policies of the ruling party.”

Beijing has also gone out of its way to show that it has not forsaken the CCP’s traditional supporters–the workers and farmers. Since the Congress, Hu has convened a number of meetings, including a Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) session, on ways and means to help unemployed workers and poor pensioners. The mid-December PSC meeting ordered the Finance Ministry to dole out more emergency relief for destitute households in the run-up to the Lunar New Year. And the party chief has called on cadres to spend more time among the masses, “particularly in areas where difficulties, problems and contradictions abound.”