The most important piece of work for the nation today is for the Communist Party of China (CPC) to revise its charter or political program. It will be done by the 16th National Congress of the CPC, in session in Beijing later this week.
And the most important thing to be written into the CPC Charter, as widely expected by scholars within and outside the Party, is the "Three Representatives."
So, what is the "Three Representatives" notion about?
It requires, as first proposed by Party leader Jiang Zemin in 2000, that the CPC must always represent the development trend of China's advanced productive forces, the orientation of China's advanced culture and the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people.
According to Zhang Zhiming in a recent interview with China Daily, the notion provides a clear mission statement for the CPC amid the nation's rapid progress towards a market economy and middle-income society.
Zhang, who graduated from Tsinghua University, one of China's best schools, is a political scientist and CPC history expert after earning his PhD from the CPC Central Party School. In the last decade, the school has enrolled a team of young scholars at its teaching and research faculty.
Zhang said although the CPC has been the leader of all changes in modern China, there is never any ready blueprint for it to follow -- either for waging a revolution in a peasant society, or building a modern economy.
From its early days, the CPC has been seeking to orient its action plan by drawing on the experience from its own practices. Such a practice-oriented approach is the most creative approach in a society vastly different from Europe, where the concepts of the modern revolution and modern economy originated.
It is the right approach, as late Party leader Deng Xiaoping told his comrades many times, to adopt the philosophy of Marxism.
Zhang said because there is no blueprint to follow, the CPC has to answer two basic questions before it can successfully institute any changes -- to define the change and define its role in the change.
"Mao Zedong was a great revolutionary because he found the right answers to the two questions by himself," Zhang said.
"Mao pointed out the revolution was primarily a peasant revolution and the CPC should strive to mobilize and liberate the peasants."
In the first 20 odd years after the founding of the People's Republic, the CPC did not want to make China a copy of the former Soviet Union and floundered through several attempts.
"It was not until Deng came to put things on the right track, but only to continue to carve China's own course." Zhang said.
China was facing two new questions in the 1970s. It was still to define the change and to define the job of the CPC.
During the 80s and 90s, Deng answered the first question, Zhang said.
"It was a totally different kind of socialism," he said, as it moved further away from its Soviet prototype.
The Deng-brand of socialism, with its official name as socialism with Chinese characteristics, has helped China rapidly reduce poverty and increase productivity by shaking rigid central planning, embracing open market competition and tapping individual creativity.
"Now the ongoing 16th National Congress of the CPC provides the platform for Jiang to give his answer to the second question," Zhang said. "That is what the CPC, as the nation's ruling party, should do to provide the most effective leadership to the reform. And Jiang's answer is best summarized by the 'Three Representatives'."
Zhang said the "Three Representatives" is a mission statement that the CPC can use to best relate itself with the productive forces unleashed by economic reform and build an institutional framework for its sustainable development.
Zhang said he was happy the "Three Representatives" would soon be officially written into the CPC Charter "to serve as the most important guideline for Chinese reform in the next 20 years."
(China Daily November 13, 2002)