China communique cites nation's problems

December 31, 1990|By Robert Benjamin | Robert Benjamin,Beijing Bureau of The Sun

BEIJING -- The Chinese Communist Party offered yesterday its vision of China's political economy into the next century, and it came out as muddled and nervous as the country's present situation.

Despite a heavy overlay of socialist rhetoric, the result of the party Central Committee's seventh plenum -- a lengthy document aimed at defining China's plans for the next five- and 10-year periods -- leaves room for almost any sort of economic arrangements short of dissolving the party's absolute rule.

At the same time, the much-anticipated final communique, released last night at the end of the six-day meeting of top party leaders here, also exudes a strong sense of the troubles afflicting the stalled Chinese economy and of the top leaders' tension over the nation's future.

"The years from 1991 to 2000 will be very pivotal," the communique says. "Success or failure in our efforts . . . will have a direct bearing on the rise or fall of China's socialist system."

Later, the document gravely advises: "It is crucial that we manage our domestic affairs well."

As to how that will be done, however, the communique was at best a contradictory and hollow guide.

The document speaks of developing a "socialist planned commodity economy based on public ownership." Then it talks of combining a "planned economy with market regulation."

It conveys a commitment to retaining in rural areas the successful contract farming system that has linked productivity to rewards. Then it stresses the continuing role of large state-run industries, many of which have had to be kept afloat by subsidies that are draining the central government's coffers.

It mentions the "goal of establishing a new economic system," suggesting the advent of major reforms in certain key areas such commodity prices, taxes and wages. Then it immediately cites the need for greater efforts at building a "system of overall regulation and control."

The clearest precepts announced by the plenum were reiterations of goals long pronounced here: Quadrupling China's 1980 gross national product by the year 2000; proceeding with the nation's economic reforms and its opening to the outside world; seeking reunification with Taiwan; promoting "socialist culture"; pursuing an independent foreign policy; and firmly following the "socialist road with Chinese characteristics."

Western analysts here said that, as expected, the communique was bland enough to allow all factions within China's patched-together leadership to claim some measure of victory. It also was vague enough not to hamstring whoever manages to prevail in the struggle to succeed China's retired senior leader, Deng Xiaoping.

That result was expected because the months preceding the plenum were marked by deep disagreements between economic conservatives and reformers and between central planners and independent provinces over how much free play will be given to market forces and how tax revenues will be divided between fast-developing regions and the cash-short central government.

Also as expected, the communique was not accompanied by any announcements of changes in the party's top leadership.

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