BEIJING — The 13th National Congress of China's Communist Party opened Sunday with the presentation of a new theory ideologically justifying anything that contributes to economic growth.
In a report to nearly 2,000 delegates in the Great Hall of the People, acting General Secretary Zhao Ziyang declared:
"To make China prosperous and strong, to make the people rich, to make education, science and culture flourish, to consolidate and expand public ownership and the state power of people's democracy--in a word, to give full play to the superiority of socialism and to steadily enhance its appeal at home and abroad--all this, in the final analysis, hinges on the growth of the productive forces.
"Whatever is conducive to this growth is in keeping with the fundamental interests of the people and is therefore needed and allowed to exist by socialism," Zhao said. "Conversely, whatever is detrimental to this growth goes against scientific socialism and is therefore not allowed to exist."
Zhao's 2 1/2-hour speech, which also outlined projected economic and political reforms including commercialization of housing and creation of a civil service system, was the only item of business handled by the congress Sunday.
The session was presided over by China's top leader, Deng Xiaoping, 83. Zhao, 68, sat on his left. On Deng's right sat Chen Yun, 82, a veteran economist and central planner. Chen was a key ally in Deng's 1978 rise to power, but in recent years he has been the most potent orthodox critic of some of Deng's reforms.
Chen, who seldom appears in public and is obviously ailing, was helped to his seat by Zhao. After an hour and a half, as Zhao continued to speak, Chen passed a note to Deng, rose and left early, taking a full two minutes to walk roughly 70 feet to exit the stage.
The new theory outlined by Zhao is based on the concept that China never experienced capitalist industrial development as envisioned by Communist theorist Karl Marx and thus remains a poor country that can only be in "the primary stage of socialism."
Because of this situation, according to the new ideology, China must develop its economy by whatever means are effective, including the use of techniques more commonly associated with capitalist economies.
The theory thus provides an ideological underpinning for a variety of market-oriented reforms that have been criticized by Chen and other orthodox leaders. The new ideology is apparently intended to strengthen the hand of reformist leaders such as Zhao and encourage implementation of reforms at all levels of society.
Techniques such as the issuance of stocks and bonds and the use of market mechanisms, rather than central planning, to allocate financial, technical, labor and other resources, "are not peculiar to capitalism," Zhao declared. "Socialism can and should make use of them."
Expansion of "the productive forces" should be "the point of departure in our consideration of all problems, and the basic criterion for judging all our work should be whether or not it serves that end," Zhao said.
Zhao stressed that the Communist Party has no intention of giving up its monopoly on power or allowing China to turn into a capitalist society.
"Adherence to the four cardinal principles--that is, keeping to the socialist road and upholding the people's democratic dictatorship, leadership by the Communist Party and Marxism-Leninism and Mao Tse-tung thought--is the foundation underlying all our efforts to build the country," he said.
But Zhao also took some of the rhetoric of an orthodox ideological campaign against "bourgeois liberalization"--a code phrase for capitalism and Western concepts of democracy--that was launched earlier this year and turned it around to attack critics of reform.
"We must not take an ossified view of the four cardinal principles or we will doubt or even reject the general principle of reform and opening to the outside world," Zhao said. He continued:
"In the primary stage, when the country is still underdeveloped, ideas of bourgeois liberalization, which rejects the socialist system in favor of capitalism, will persist for a long time. With ossified thinking and without reform and the open policy, we will not be able to demonstrate the superiority of socialism more fully and enhance its appeal, and this will amount to encouraging the growth and spread of bourgeois liberalization."
Warns Against Complacency
Zhao acknowledged that China's reformers have found their task more difficult than they expected, and he warned that China cannot afford to be complacent.
"We must be soberly aware that we still face a great many problems and difficulties, many more than we anticipated," he said. "We are still at a quite backward stage because we lost too much time in the past.