Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

The cutting edge of capitalism: The Loyal Party Member

IN A province where the profit incentive beckons strongly, who these days joins a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that still urges its members to study the Marxist political classics?

Lao Wenhao, 51, who has been in the party since 1960, works in the Organisation Department at the Guangdong CCP headquarters. The offices, guarded by armed soldiers, are housed in huge stately buildings that back on to ornamental gardens and a lake. Chain-smoking Mr Lao preaches party orthodoxy while sitting in a chair beneath a calendar of photographs celebrating Deng Xiaoping's visit to the south last year. Across the lake are the state guesthouses where the paramount leader is housed when in Canton.

According to Mr Lao there are 2.5 million party members in Guangdong, 500,000 more than before the economic reforms started. About two-thirds of members are workers and peasants. But it is not that easy to get in; last year only 80,000 out of 400,000 applicants were allowed to join the party.

Only about one per cent of the province's private businessmen are members because, says Mr Lao, these applications must be dealt with very carefully. Between the private entrepreneurs and their employees 'there is a kind of relationship of exploitation that violates the CCP's characteristics'.

But Mr Lao says there is no conflict between private business and the CCP. 'The party (economic reform) policy came out because of certain economic circumstances. We, in China, are in the primary period of socialism - I think this period will last for 100 years or more. In this period we have a policy which will support a lot of different elements (like private business).'

So how does he feel when he sees people around him getting rich? 'I was glad, because that is the idea of the party. To tell the truth, when they get rich they also benefit me. Some of my friends and relatives all got rich, so they benefit me.'

(Photograph omitted)