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Private entrepreneurs gain political status(12/03/03)

 With the improved political status of private entrepreneurs and a constitutional amendment in the offing to provide stronger protection on private ownership, analysts say the country is transforming its favourable policies towards the private sector into concrete institutional guarantees.

    "As a new stratum, the private sector is emerging and gaining clout in Chinese society," said Zhang Houyi, a researcher at the Institute of Social Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

    "But private entrepreneurs have long been worried about their political rights and the protection of private ownership," he added.

    Zhang said the 16th Communist Party of China (CPC) National Congress last November has enabled more private entrepreneurs to assume political leadership roles -- an unprecedented move.

    Xu Guanju, a private entrepreneur in East China's Zhejiang Province who owns assets worth 800 million yuan (US$97 million), was elected vice-chairman of the local people's political consultative conference in January.

    Yin Mingshan, listed in "Fortune" magazine as one of the top 50 millionaires in China, is chairman of the Chongqing-based Lifan Hongda Industrial Group and vice-chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce of Chongqing Municipality. He is also a member of the National Committee of the CPPCC.

    The CPC amended its Party Constitution last year, paving the way for private entrepreneurs to join it.

    Turning to ownership protection, Zhang said that reading between the lines of the latest published party documents indicates the proposed amendment to the Constitution will stipulate better protection of private properties, although details of the amendment remain unknown.

    "Ownership is the core issue of property rights," Zhang said, adding that a commitment to better protect private ownership is indeed an institutional guarantee for the private sector.

    Huang Mengfu, chairman of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, delivered a similar message last week in Zhengzhou of Central China's Henan Province.

    "Prospects for the private sector are promising as the country not only offers supporting policies but is considering institutional changes," Huang said at a gathering of the commerce chamber to release a report on the development of the private sector.

    The recent third plenary session of the 16th CPC Central Committee introduced the concept of property rights and pledged to formulate legislation protecting private property.

    In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Premier Wen Jiabao said enhancing legislation to protect private property will help accelerate China's economic development, ease employment pressure, and give greater incentive for people to establish their own businesses.

    Currently the private sector employs a total of 80 million workers and accounts for 23 per cent of the country's GDP. 


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