The Second Plenum of the 13th CPC Central Committee
Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang has called for greater openness in Party and state affairs, saying, "This is the prerequisite for carrying out consultations and dialogue among the people."
He proposed the early establishment of a spokesman system for the National People's Congress (NPC), the State Council and the various ministries so as to offer regular, substantive news briefings.
Zhao, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), was speaking at the Second Plenary Session of the 13th CPC Central Committee, held in Beijing March 15-19. Zhao described consultations and dialogue as the "correct handling of contradictions among the people."
He said that under a socialist system, conflicts of interest between different groups still exist, and the correct approach should be to handle these problem in a timely and appropriate manner.
Therefore, consultation and dialogue should be held at all levels - national, intermediate and grass-roots.
In the future, opinions of the people from all walks of life should be solicited on important draft laws and on plans for major reforms, such as price readjustment and labour and wage reform.
He said the people must be told the truth about major events affecting social stability, and policies to cope with the situation must be explained through extensive dialogue, so as to enlist the people's support and cooperation.
At present, local consultation and dialogue can be held at the city level, he said, with emphasis on questions relating to the immediate concerns of urban residents, such as public transport, housing, education, social security, commerce, and environmental hygiene.
Zhao described consultations and dialogue in grass-roots units as an "important part of building a democratic system." These should focus on questions such as work regulations and discipline, production safety, welfare funds, housing allocation, dining halls, retail shops, public baths and kindergartens.
Consultations and dialogue, he said, are "channels through which people can fully air their views" and learn to run their own affairs, It is an important means to form a "mechanism of checks and balances, and to maintain political stability and unity."
Consultations and dialogue between different industries and units are not yet common but should be encouraged, he said. With the reform in China's political structure, there will undoubtedly be new developments in the content and methods of consultation and dialogue.
All consultation and dialogue ought to be conducive to maintaining order in the social and production fields, he said, adding that in carrying them out, the interest of the whole shoud be taken into consideration, equality encouraged and mutual understanding enhanced.
Turning to the structure reform to be carried out by the State Council, Zhao said it will focus on changing the functions of government institutions, and not just reducing their numbers.
He said the reform is still transitional. All government institutions, both old and new, should do a good job in changing their functions, delegating certain powers to lower levels, streamlining their organization, reducing their staff, overcoming bureaucratism and raising work efficiency.
Zhao stressed that "our Party and government institutions should remain honest and clean," He said this is a new problem that has arisen and must be dealt with in earnest during the development of a socialist market economy.
Serious infractions of the law, such as abusing one's power to extort money, accepting graft, embezzling and betraying the nation's interest, must be dealt with strictly in accordance with the law and Party discipline. Corrupt elements must be expelled from the Party, Zhao said.
He said that educational work aimed at improving the overall quality of Party and government officials should be stepped up; relevant regulations and legal systems should be perfected; the economic supervisory departments should be reinforced to keep a close watch on public servants; and the wages of public servants should be raised gradually along with the development of production and the increase of state financial resources.
"Party building should be strengthened so as to promote the building of socialist ethics as a whole," he said.
Zhao said he expects China to maintain a sustained and relatively fast economic growth this year and for a number of years to come, if close attention is paid to improving efficiency and ensuring a stable and balanced development.
He said that China, as a developing country, needs both economic stability and expansion; it needs a relatively high growth rate accompanied by good economic results.
A new situation began to emerge last year, Zhao said. Growth and stability were attained simultaneously.
"There is much that we can learn from our success and which we should continue to apply," he noted. "The most valuable experience is that if we let reform play a dominant role in our overall work, there will be invigoration of the micro-economy along with macro-economic controls, and the two will complement each other, thus ensuring both speedy growth and good economic results."
He stressed the importance of using the law of value to stabilize the economy and promote economic growth.
He described excessive price rises as a "major problem in China's present economic situation." The focus of the problem is on food prices, which most concern urban dwellers. In 1987, the country's retail price index rose 7.2 percent, of which 65 percent was caused by rises in the prices of farm and related products.
Zhao said irrational prices impeding the growth of production should be adjusted step by step to help rationalize the industrial setup and product mix; at the same time, unauthorized price rises must be stopped.
When prices of major food items go up, compensation should be given to employees, Zhao said.
Turning to the strategy of developing China's coastal areas, Zhao explained its national and regional significance.
He stressed that the implementation of this strategy will not only facilitate the development of coastal areas, but will also help promote the development of inland areas. Moreover, it will give a great impetus to reforming the systems of foreign trade, banking and finance, and the management of science and technology, prices and state enterprises.
He noted that serious incompatibilities exist in the present systems of foreign trade, enterprise management, and the integration of scientific and technological advances with economic development.
Calling for a bold reform of the foreign trade system, Zhao said that the customs, import and export and foreign exchange administrations should take the initiative in creating favourable conditions and improving their work style. This is the way to facilitate foreign trade on a large scale so as to keep abreast of the sharp competition on the fast-changing international market.
Strenuous efforts should be made to build up high-quality export-oriented township and village enterprises with the help of Chinese scientists and technicians, he said.
Talking about the draft state enterprise law, Zhao said that conformity of business operations to the proposed state-owned enterprise law and other relevant laws should be the criterion for judging whether that law is being implemented conscientiously.
Zhao described separating the functions of Party organizations and management in enterprises as an "essential issue" for implementing the law. The director is the legal representative of the enterprise. He or she plays the central role in it and assumes full responsibility for it.
In implementing the law, Zhao said, the Party organizations in enterprises must first of all ensure the establishment of the director responsibility system, under which they will no longer provide overall leadership as they did in the past, but will supervise the work and ensure that it is accomplished.
(NO. 13 MARCH 28, 1988, title: "Zhao Discusses Reform Programme" )