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China

The fading of Jiang's 'Three Represents'
By Xu Yufang

BEIJING - There's a story going around Beijing that China and Russia had finally agreed to do away with Iraq's Saddam Hussein. George W Bush was jubilant and bought presidents Vladimir Putin and Jiang Zemin a drink.

"Tomorrow I'll deploy three B-2 bombers to blow Saddam's house to rubbles, then he'll surely die," confided Bush.

"That's not 100 percent sure," commented Putin. "Let me deploy three Russian blondes and they will certainly exhaust the man to death," volunteered the former spy in a fashion compatible with his background.

"Still not good enough," said Jiang. "My method is most perfect." Then the 76-year-old statesman showed off his talent. "I need only to deploy my 'Three Represent[ative]s' and they will surely bore him to death."

The joke is only one among many being circulated in China's capital city making mockery of Jiang's "Three Represents" discourses.

"Although there has been a lot of fuss over this 'Three Represents' matter, no one, possibly not even Jiang himself, is serious of it," remarked a retired cadre. It is in fact an open secret that an article written by Bao Tong, former private secretary to disgraced party chief Zhao Ziyang, has been read and approved by scholars and cadres in Beijing. In that article, which was published in Hong Kong and banned on the mainland, Bao argued that the political theories of the "Three Represents" did not possess minimal worth.

Bao has not been subject to visible harassment or punishment since the publication of that article. As commentators from different backgrounds agreed unanimously, "That is telling."

On the other hand, publicity efforts on behalf of the "Three Represents" have been losing momentum. Since the first week of September, those magic words have almost completely disappeared from headlines of news reports of state-level media, including China Central Television and People's Daily. The phrase does, however, retain its presence in news and commentary contents.

The most indicative sign of the times rests with Hu Jintao, heir apparent to Jiang's top positions. Hu has refrained from quoting the catchwords since September.

And then articles posing a challenge to the assertions of "Three Represents" began springing up from time to time.

September 15 was a particularly meaningful day. Xinhua, China's official news agency, fed the domestic media two eye-catching pieces on that Sunday. One piece from the western city of Chengdu complained that boasts of China's advancement in the scientific field over the past few yeas were only bluffs. The other piece gave a rosy picture of how the Chinese people were enjoying their daily lives.

The piece on scientific advancement was a head-on rebuttal to the assertion that the Communist Party of China (CPC) is promoting advanced productivity. It pointed out that for four years the state's natural science award had seen no recipient but during the same period, there was no lack of celebratory news: an undertaking three years ago to complete the human genome map within a year with solely domestic efforts, a promise to produce cloned human organs in five years, as many as 10 provinces having designated zones to develop nanotechnology, and the recent claim of having developed a supercomputer of trega-hertz (a trillion revolutions per second) speed. The final item on the list was alleged to be merely a combination of commercial hardware and downloaded software of open codes, and thus nothing but a scam.

By referring to the statement by the late patriarch Deng Xiaoping that science and technology is the No 1 productivity goal, the article tacitly implied that China, under the ruling of CPC, was not only backward in its productivity, but has also been dishonest.

The piece on people's livelihood was very positive. It listed 10 major characteristics of the improvement in the quality of life of the common populace: personal and family incomes were growing at a geometric rate; the proportion of family incomes spent on food had dropped to 37.9 percent and 47.7 percent respectively for city and rural dwellers; people were more choosy in their diets; life expectancy was much longer; people's living spaces were becoming bigger and bigger; more and more people owned cars; the popularization rate of suits and leather shoes had exceeded 90 percent; education attainment had leaped; holiday travels had become a general way of life; and communications had come speedier with the introduction of new technology.

In one way, this rosy picture was real. One need only take a stroll on the main streets of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or Shenzhen to get the feel.

But the timing of the piece was unfortunate. Just a few days before, the CPC had a high-profile meeting on the country's pressing unemployment problems. All members of the politburo standing committee, including Jiang, turned up. But official figures showed that China's unemployment rate was an enviable 3.8 percent, which should not trouble any government. Then the Labor Ministry quietly said the figure concerned only cities. The real problem rested with peasants, and the estimate of unemployment was between 20 and 30 percent when rural areas were included.

In the unemployment-ridden rural areas, the average family income could be as low as US$250 per year, and the 10 characteristics of the improving quality of life were nothing but myths to the peasants. Such a contrast led to the crucial question: How could the CPC claim to represent the broadest interest of the general populace?

It would have been perfect if a third article discussing cultural issues was also carried on the same day. But it was not there, so the cynicism over the "Three Represents" was less obvious.

Finally, however, the long-awaited negative piece on the cultural aspect appeared on the first day of November, on the homepage of the People's Daily. The article argued that China's culture as a continuous development and encompassing many ethnic races was not unique among the world's civilizations. It also argued that the Confucian school of thought, which emphasizes obedience and social order, could not claim to represent the culture of Chinese races. It was a direct criticism on Jiang's assertion made during a conference a few months ago.

The piece was allowed on the Net for only a few hours, but that was long enough to get the attention of many, especially when it was posted on the eve of the latest Central Committee meeting of the CPC.

In a few days, the CPC will convene the all-important 16th Party Congress. The media outside China have tipped that Jiang's "Three Represents" sayings will be enshrined in the new party charter. That will occur only as an addendum in the preamble as a comfort to the retiring party chief. "That will not bring upon any substantive change, as the sayings in fact do not contain any substance - at least there is no agreed substance within vast majority of party members," quipped a cadre whose job is related to theoretical works.

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Nov 7, 2002


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