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China mulls ways to stave off democracy

December 31, 1990

Article from: Chicago Sun-Times
Article date: December 31, 1990
Author: Guy Dinmore

BEIJING China’s Communist rulers, confronted with the decline of Marxism abroad and widespread dissent at home, issued a rallying call Sunday to preserve socialism and block Western political infiltration.

The long-delayed six-day meeting of the Central Committee, headed by party leader Jiang Zemin, also adopted an economic blueprint for the next five years that Chinese economists said was a muddled compromise between reformists and conservatives.

“Success or failure in our efforts in the 1990s . . . will have a direct bearing on the rise or fall of China’s socialist system and the future and destiny of the Chinese nation,” the leadership said. “Faced with a complicated and ever-changing international situation, it is crucial that we manage our domestic affairs well.”

The remarks were a reference to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe over the last year and its decline in the Soviet Union.

China’s hard-line leadership used the army to crush democracy demonstrations in June, 1989, and has denounced Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev as a traitor to communism in internal documents, though it has refrained from criticizing him in public.

The Central Committee meeting, attended by 171 full and 107 nonvoting members, called for strengthened ideological work.

The struggle against “bourgeois liberalization” should be sustained, the communique said, using the party’s stock phrase for Western political values.

“We are certain to withstand every kind of storm,” the party said defiantly, insisting that China stick to its socialist path and reforms as laid down by 86-year-old Deng Xiaoping, the senior leader.

The statement was carried on television.

Jiang, a 64-year-old technocrat and one of Deng’s proteges, was appointed general secretary after the 1989 crackdown, replacing the reformist Zhao Ziyang.

A Western diplomat described the statement as predictable and said it masked deep divisions that have remained since suppression of the democracy movement.

Few details of the 1991-1995 economic plan were revealed.

The communique said the economy should grow “in a sustained, stable and coordinated manner” and that “big ups and downs” should be avoided.

China’s economy overheated in 1988, giving rise to record inflation of 30 percent, but plummeted into recession in 1989 as the government put on the brakes.

Infusions of credit have resulted in an increase in production of 15 percent, and economists said inflation looms again.

In order to feed China’s 1.1 billion people, agriculture received priority in the five-year plan.

The party’s conservative faction apparently triumphed in the agriculture field. The statement said China should “gradually boost the strength of the collective economy.”

Many farmers fear this means a return to the communes that were disbanded a decade ago under Deng’s reforms.

The Central Committee usually meets twice a year. Party sources said disputes over the five-year plan had delayed the latest session at least two months.

“It is a compromise agreement. The need for stability overrides everything,” said an economist. “It is very muddled.”

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