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China's Communist Party Calls for Better Government - 2004-09-27


Leaders of China's Communist Party have issued a document warning that the survival of Communist rule will depend on the party's ability to root out corruption.

The Communist Party leadership has spoken before of the need to tackle the corruption that is endemic in China, but it has never painted the consequences of corruption for the party in quite such stark terms.

The leadership issued a 36-page document Sunday warning that members "must develop a stronger sense of crisis," and draw lessons from the "failures of other ruling parties in the world." It said the party will not retain its ruling status forever if it does nothing to safeguard it.

The document was issued a week after the conclusion of the party plenum, an annual meeting whose purpose is to lay down party goals for the coming year.

This year's gathering saw the completion of the transfer of power from former President Jiang Zemin to the new president, Hu Jintao. Mr. Jiang handed the reigns of the central military commission to Mr. Hu, more than one year after Mr. Jiang stepped down as president.

Analysts say the new directives and warnings in the plenum document fully reflect the agenda set by Mr. Hu. Since he took office last year, both he and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao have called for the government to be more responsive to the people.

Authorities have stepped up anti-corruption drives and newspapers often feature stories of party officials who are tried and in some cases executed for corruption and others abuses of power.

Professor Cheng Li at Hamilton College in the United States recently published a book on China's new generation of leaders. He says Mr. Hu and Mr. Wen appear to be positioning the party to deal with the increasing likelihood of challenges to the Communist Party's monopoly on power.

"They realize that as a single ruling party, they need to deal with issues of legitimacy; or modify the tensions before it becomes out of control," he said. "They know that the Chinese society will continue to change. There's a rise of middle class. There's a relatively more dynamic media."

Professor Li says the leadership is planning for what may lie ahead, especially as mainlanders monitor events in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy forces have raised challenges to Beijing's monopoly on power.

However, neither he nor anyone else, it seems, expects China to become a multi-party democracy anytime soon. President Hu earlier this month ruled out allowing a Western-style democratic system in China, saying it would lead the country into a "blind alley."

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