For the first time in its 55 years in power, China's ruling communist party has made the "ruling capabilities of the Party" a major issue to be discussed at a plenary session of its central committee opened Thursday in Beijing.
The Fourth Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which consists of 198 full members and 158 alternate members, is slated to discuss what the party should do to make itself more capable of governing a country with 1.3 billion people and the world's fastest-growing economy.
Political analysts believe that the CPC's emphasis on its ruling capabilities is catering to the needs of the times, and that it will lay a solid foundation for China's long-term stability and prosperity, as well as for the healthy development of the Party itself.
"In the new century and a new stage of development, how to enhance the Party's ruling capabilities has emerged as a significant issue with a bearing on the future of both the country and the Party itself," said Yu Yunyao, executive vice president of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, the Party's top cadre-training base and a leading think tank.
The "ruling capabilities" issue has become even more compelling as China's reform and opening-up drive has entered a critical stage, with many deep-rooted problems starting to emerge and threatening to undermine social stability, Yu said.
"China's per capita GDP (gross domestic product) now exceeds US$1,000, but Chinese society is undergoing some outstanding stability problems," he said. "The party faces a double challenge of further promoting reform and opening-up while consolidating its ruling status."
Despite its conspicuous achievements and accumulation of rich experience in governing the country over the past 55 years, the CPC still suffers from incompetent leading cadres, loopholes in governance and supervision and immature governing mechanisms, said Lu Xianfu, director of the Party Building Department of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.
A recent survey conducted by the Party School among the Party's leading cadres above the county level showed that more than half of those surveyed lacked the ability to "make a scientific judgment of a situation," while more than one third either "had difficulty tackling a complicated situation" or "totally lost their heads" in such a situation, Lu said.
He cited the widespread public panic in the early stage of the SARS outbreak last year as an example of the lack of government capabilities to handle emergencies.
Political observers here say that the key to enhancing the party's ruling capabilities lies in promoting democracy and the rule of law, as well as making the party and the government more accountable to the people.
They note that the late Chairman Mao Zedong, one of the CPC's founding fathers and "the core of the Party's first-generation leaders," stressed the importance of democracy to the success of the Party's cause. Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, at the core of the second and third generation of Party leadership, also spared no efforts to establish a rule of law in China and made the principle of the Party "governing the country according to law" enshrined in both the Chinese Constitution and the CPC's party constitution.
The new generation of the CPC leaders, who took over in late 2002, followed suit as they set forth the principle of "putting people first," embraced a fresh "scientific concept of development" and promoted the building of a "transparent and responsible government" under public and media supervision.
Over the past couple of years, the CPC put out six major documents to promote inner-Party democracy and reforms and tighten up supervision over the Party's leading cadres: Regulations on Inner-Party Supervision of the CPC (trial version), Regulations on Disciplinary Punishments of the CPC and Provisional Regulations on the Open Selection of Leading Cadres of the Party and Government.
In a display of its eagerness to draw upon the ruling experience of foreign political parties, the CPC also hosted the 3rd International Conference of Asian Political Parties in Beijing earlier this month.
"As the CPC is now focusing on its self-improvement, especially on its own ruling capabilities, many more positive changes are expected to take place in China's political, economic and social life," predicted Ye Duchu, a Beijing-based expert on Party-building.
He believes the CPC will see major progress in combating corruption, with ordinary citizens gaining an increasingly louder voice in political affairs and taking a more active part in democratic elections and government supervision. The welfare of the people will always be put first in government decision-making in the future, he added.
"As a capable ruling party, the CPC will continue to promote China's political reforms in an active yet steady manner," said YuYunyao.
"As Party General Secretary Hu Jintao said at a gathering marking the centenary of Deng Xiaoping's birth late August in Beijing, the Chinese Communist Party has a key role in everything in China," said one political observer in Beijing. "So it's really good news for the Chinese people that the Party is taking the 'ruling capabilities' issue really seriously."
(Xinhua News Agency September 17, 2004)