Chinese urged to follow path of purity: Teresa Poole in Hong Kong reports on efforts to control the economy

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The Independent Online
IDEOLOGICAL purity is emerging as a key theme as Peking tries to reassert central government control over China's overheating economy.

In his latest pronouncement, Jiang Zemin, China's President and head of the Communist Party, has warned that the country faces chaos unless the party succeeds in rallying its members. 'If we lack a correct guiding theory and a strong spiritual pillar based on that theory, then it is impossible to imagine what our party, state and nation will become,' said President Jiang, according to a report in the official People's Daily yesterday.

'We will become a heap of loose sand and be unable even to begin to talk about cohesion, fighting capacity and creativity and there will be no bright future,' he said. Last week the President warned that some party cadres did not obey central government, were slackening in discipline, and had a growing tendency to 'worship money and pleasure'.

Calls for political orthodoxy are now part of the central government's efforts to reimpose control over the country's increasingly autonomous provincial governments. The fast- growing regions have been blamed for runaway bank lending which has fuelled soaring inflation, a rising budget deficit, and a worsening trade deficit.

Exhortations to regional cadres to study Marxist-Leninism and Mao Tse-tung's thought are likely to fall on stony ground, however, as provincial governments are enthusiastically engaging in business opportunities made possible under China's economic reforms and 'Open Door' policies. And when President Jiang stresses Deng Xiaoping's theory of 'socialism with Chinese characteristics', provincial authorities may prefer the paramount leader's public statements since the beginning of last year, in which he has told everyone to press ahead with the reforms.

While central government works to impose the 16-point economic austerity package announced at the weekend, increasing emphasis is now being placed on political discipline within the army. At the weekend, Liberation Army Daily said one of the army's most important tasks was 'maintaining a high degree of political unity with the party centre'.

The vast military-industrial complex of the People's Liberation Army has converted 70 per cent of its output to civilian products as the military adjusts to the changing economic environment. This growing involvement in commerce has, in some areas, strengthened ties between regional military units and local governments and Peking is wary in case this weakens political control over the army.