The WorldPeace Peace Page
Home About John WorldPeace Contact Us Site Map
Blog Email
WorldPeace Web Design Peaceunite Us (Peace org Index) John WorldPeace Galleries
China amends constitution to protect capitalists; promises to help poor

JOE McDONALD, Associated Press Writer

Sunday, March 14, 2004




(03-14) 12:31 PST BEIJING (AP) --

Communist-led China took the historic step Sunday of amending its constitution to protect the property rights of capitalists who are driving its economic boom, while promising to focus on helping farmers and millions of others left behind.

The nation's parliament, making changes dictated by the Communist Party, also passed an amendment declaring respect for human rights but not promising free political expression -- a key issue for government critics.

The changes came as the figurehead National People's Congress closed a 10-day annual session dominated by promises to shift development to the poor countryside, where 800 million Chinese live.

"We should unite all the people of China in focusing on construction and development in order to build a better future," the country's No. 2 leader, NPC chairman Wu Bangguo, said in a nationally televised address to the parliament's closing ceremony.

The outcome of the parliament reflected the ruling party's two-track strategy for China's immediate future: heavy new spending to help the rural poor, financed by more economic reform and robust growth, projected this year at 7 percent.

The amendment on private property is the first of its kind since China's 1949 communist revolution, but it only brings the constitution into line with the country's commercial reality.

China already has laws regulating private property, and the constitution was amended in 1999 to declare private business an "important component" of the economy. Millions of Chinese own businesses and apartments and trade shares on the country's two stock exchanges.

Still, entrepreneurs who are key to plans to create new jobs as state industry withers lobbied for constitutional protection. Communist leaders said the amendment, which declares that "private property obtained legally shall not be violated," was essential to future reforms.

The NPC also approved an amendment writing into the constitution the political theory of retired President Jiang Zemin, who invited capitalists to join the ruling party.

Premier Wen Jiabao expressed sympathy for rural Chinese, vowing to step up efforts to help them. Wen sounded the theme of the parliament when he said in his report to its opening session that the government would focus on "putting people first" -- a phrase repeated frequently by delegates.

"The hardest lives are led by the farmers, the people in the countryside," Wen said Sunday at a news conference.

"What I am most concerned about are the issues most pivotal to our people. These can be solved by reform, innovations and pushing forward despite difficulties."

Wen, China's chief economic official, acknowledged the challenge of controlling an economy whose growth rate last year hit a sizzling 9.1 percent, prompting fears of inflation. He noted that consumer prices rose while the country's grain production fell.

"This test is no less severe than the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome a year ago," he said. "If we fail to manage the situation well, setbacks to the economy would be inevitable."

Wen promised to redouble efforts to fight the rampant corruption that has fueled public rage and threatens to erode economic growth and acceptance of communist rule.

"At the heart of the anti-corruption struggle is the very survival of our party and our country," Wen said.

Despite its severe tone, however, the warning about the threat to the party was a repeat of comments by other officials in recent years, and Wen announced no new initiatives.

The human rights amendment is brief, saying simply that "the state respects and preserves human rights." It does not define human rights, but communist leaders often say they include rights to food and housing, rejecting criticism of their attempts to suppress political and religious activists.

The amendment adding Jiang's theory to the constitution makes the awkwardly titled "Three Represents" part of China's official ideology, alongside that of communist founder Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, who launched the country's economic reforms.

The amendment does not mention Jiang by name, but its passage represents a personal victory for the 77-year-old former leader in his quest for a place in history.

Jiang led China from 1989 until he stepped down as party leader in late 2002. He retired as president last year but still serves as chairman of the powerful committee that runs China's military.

Jiang, still an NPC delegate, joined President Hu Jintao and other officials onstage Sunday at the hulking Great Hall of the People to vote on the constitutional changes.

The vote adopting the slate of amendments was 2,863-10, with 17 abstaining. The lopsided tally showed the changes "reflect the will of the Chinese people," Wen said.

Jia Jilan, an older woman representing a farming region of the northern province of Shanxi, said, "I believe this congress has been very good."

Wen's March 5 report "spoke of the truth and the troubles the farmers are facing," Jia said. "I believe we can use this to help the nation, and farmers, move toward a well-off society."

graphical line


How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

The WorldPeace Banner







The WorldPeace Insignia : Explanation 

To order a WorldPeace Insignia lapel pin, go to: Order  

To the John WorldPeace Galleries Page

To the WorldPeace Peace Page