05/20/2013, 00.00
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Chinese scholar calls for CP reform, warns the PRC will go the Soviet way

For Zhang Xien, a professor at Shandong University, 20 per cent of the CP's 83 million members are old, sick and "unable to toe the party line". At least 32 million should be encouraged to leave. The scholar addresses the dangerous issue in an article published by a biweekly magazine published by the People's Daily, the party's mouthpiece. He wants better entry requirements to weed out potentially bad officials.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China's Communist party has too many officials and leaders; their ranks should be reduced before the People's Republic of China implodes like the Soviet Union, wrote Zhang Xien, professor of politics at Shandong University.

In a recent article in the latest edition of the People's Forum Biweekly Political Commentary, a magazine published by the party's mouthpiece, People's Daily, he suggested cutting the party's membership by 32 million, down to 51 million.

The Bolshevik party had only 240,000 party members before the October Revolution in 1917 when it took power. But its membership increased to 19 million by 1991, and became unmanageable as no one thought of ways to renew it. This is a painful lesson to oversized parties, like China's, that did not set up a secure exit mechanism for members.

Zhang suggested the party's Central Committee should first classify members into three categories: honorary, probationary and formal members, with the honorary group being where most of the cuts should be made, because it was largely composed of "older, sick and retired members who are unable to toe the party line". For him, many of these members "are forced to stay in the party in order to save face, or for other political reasons".

In his view, the party should extend the probation period of some "unqualified members" who failed to pass internal assessments. At the same time, to prevent party cadres from using the "exit mechanism" to kick out political enemies, Zhang said the human rights of all party members should not be "violated", and members should not be "discriminated" against, after deciding to leave the party. He stressed that the party's constitution allows members to "join and withdraw" freely.

Zhang's article reflects what many others think. "In the past, withdrawal from the party was a serious issue because everyone believed that only those members who had made serious political mistakes would be removed," said Zou Shubin, an associate professor of politics at Shenzhen University.  "But nowadays, it is common sense that if the party doesn't sweep away all of its bad elements, it might follow in the path of the former Soviet Union."

Li Junru, a former vice-president of the Central Party School in Beijing, agrees. The party had planned to cut members many years ago, but the plan was postponed because Beijing leaders found it too hard to implement.

Things appear to be changing. Zou noted that downsizing could again be discussed openly, indicating the leadership was confidant enough in its political regime.


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