Beijing, March 14 (Reuters): China’s parliament amended the constitution today to protect private property, a landmark move that waters down the country’s core communist ideology.
Five decades after the Communist Party took power, nationalised private property and waged bloody campaigns against landlords, the parliament amended the constitution to add the clause: “Private property obtained legally is inviolable.”
Analysts said the move reflected the party’s desire to maintain its grip on power while adapting to wrenching social change wrought by 25 years of economic reform that has made the private sector a key pillar of the booming economy.
But the landmark change was coupled with calls by Premier Wen Jiabao to the parliament to help phase out taxes on poor farmers and find jobs for unemployed workers to help ease a yawning wealth gap between rich urban centres and the countryside.
Wen’s appeals were cornerstones of a work report approved overwhelmingly by the rubber-stamp National People’s Congress today.
The constitution, changed for the fourth time since its adoption in 1982, put private property on an equal footing with public property.
“It’s significant for a socialist regime that says it’s still socialist or communist to recognise more than before the role of the private economy in its development,” a western diplomat said.
Warning of a widening wealth gap that Beijing fears could spark social unrest, Wen outlined in his work report steps to scrap farm taxes and boost subsidies in rural areas — home to 800 million people.
He also pledged to create nine million new urban jobs and re-employ five million workers laid off from state firms that are struggling to stay in business as the private sector blossoms.
The parliament also gave a further nod to the private sector by enshrining in the constitution the theories of Jiang Zemin, who handed over the presidency and top party post to Hu Jintao in a generational leadership change that started in November 2002.
The Three Represents theory says the Communist Party stands for advanced productive forces, advanced culture and the interests of the majority of the Chinese people. But the amendment is communist code for opening the doors of the party to entrepreneurs once regarded as “running dogs of capitalism”.
“It’s a departure from Marxism. It’s also a recognition of Jiang Zemin thought after 13 years in power,” political commentator Wu Jiaxiang said.