Chinese Communist Party announced plan to tighten grip over private sector

 CPC issued guidelines to strengthens the united front work involving private sector

In a major development, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has announced a plan to tighten its grip on the private sector. According to the Chinese news agency Xinhua news, the General Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee has issued a set of guidelines for strengthening united front work involving the private sector.

The statement said that the Party's united front work concerning the private economy has been breaking new ground and innovating since the reform and opening up, however, the united front work is faced with new situations and new tasks because the scale of the private sector has been expanding, risks and challenges have increased significantly, and the values and interests of the private economy personnel have become more diverse as socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era.

Strengthening the united front work with the private sector is an important way to realize the Party's leadership over the private economy, an important content to develop and improve the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and an important guarantee to promote high-quality development of the private economy, it read.

The Central Committee document stressed efforts to strengthen political thinking guidance of personnel in the private sector, train competent representative figures of the sector, and support and serve the sector's high-quality development.

Mechanisms for communication and consultation between government and businesses should be established and improved, it said, urging measures to give full play to the role of federations of industry and commerce and chambers of commerce and strengthen the Party's leadership over the united front work with the private sector.

What is United Front Work?

The united front is a department in the Communist Party. It is an umbrella organisation designed to increase the influence of the Communist Party both inside China and outside. This decision may be new, but the practice is old. China's private sector has been under siege for some time now. 

Xi Jinping has pushed for something called "comprehensive party building" in the private sector. It means setting up party cells in private enterprises. The rules have been in place since the early 2000s and by 2016, 68 per cent of China's non-state enterprises had set up party cells.

In 2017, a trade group in Germany raised red flags. It said foreign firms may pull out of China over Communist Party pressure but China hasn't relented, now, it is making fresh moves to control the private sector.

A party cell is China's way of co-opting the private sector; one can expect these cells to now closely work with the united front.

The neoliberal economists criticise Chinese leadership for keeping the blurred line between private and publicly owned economy. The capitalist class will see this move as an attempt to further tightening the grip of Party and state over the economy.

One western expert explain the united front work in these words, “Chinese Communist Party has complete control over the country, military, police even the media but when China opened up its economy through reforms it seemed like the private sector would follow a different path where market forces will dictate the rules and the government will take a backseat, however, that is about to change. The Communist Party now wants to tighten its grip over the private sector too.”  

Even though, it is not a correct description of Chinese economic system, however it reflects the sentiments of pro-market business people. Private sector and market economy never dominated the Chinese economy. The economy is already dominated by public sector. China is not capitalist country. State through the bureaucratic public planning controls the economy.   

It is a clear move to deeply integrate the Communist Party into China's boardrooms.

                                                                    Khalid Bhatti 

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