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Observation: Non-communist personages as ministers
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16:12, July 10, 2007

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On June 29th, Chen Zhu was appointed minister of health, being the first top leader of a State Council department with no party affiliations elected 29 years after China's reform and opening. Two months earlier, another non-communist personage, Wan Gang, was appointed minister of science and technology; the first minister from fellow democratic parties of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to be elected in 35 years since Fu Zuoyi resigned as minister of water conservancy and electric power in 1972.

With the 17th Party Congress approaching, the entry of non-communist personages into the Chinese cabinet has sparked various interpretations. Actually, as early as March 2005, in its Suggestions on Further Strengthening the System of Multi-Party Cooperation and Political Consultation Led by the Communist Party, the CPC Central Committee explicitly stated that an important part of the CPC-led multi-party cooperation was the participation of personages with no party affiliations, or from CPC's fellow democratic parties, in the national government. In local governments, the number of non-communist leaders has increased yearly, some of them acting as the head of government. Therefore, this seeming "innovation" of non-communist personages acting as ministers is only a natural result of policies and local practices.

The question is, why did these two "firsts" fall on Chen Zhu and Wan Gang? Was it a coincidence or was it meaningful? Chen and Wan are similar in career paths: both of them have studied abroad and are heavyweights in their respective field of expertise. Some experts say their advantage lies in their international vision. Closer examination will reveal that this is only one important factor. By offering important posts to non-communist personages, the CPC has demonstrated its established rule and great vision as the party in power.

First of all, it shows the CPC's political vision. The most significant function of non-communist personages as ministers is that of implementing the multi-party cooperation system in the state's highest administrative organ. The practice also significantly enriched the form and nuances of multi-party cooperation; and consolidated the system's political foundation. The secretaries of the Party committees at the two ministries, for the first time, appeared as deputy administrative heads- a site not often seen. Such a structure will not only benefit the performance of non-communist ministers, but will also open up prospects for coordination between Party chiefs and executive heads.

Secondly, it demonstrates the CPC's vision for its employment of people. The overseas educational backgrounds of Wan and Chen reflect the recent trend in students returning from experiences abroad. As more and more experience has been gathered from outside the Party, the Party has naturally broadened its vision in employing people. The CPC Central Committee has required government departments that are involved in administrative enforcement and supervision, closely related with people's interests, or in more need of professional expertise, to equip themselves with non-communist leaders-even as top leaders. The professional skills of non-communist personages, and their relatively detached social roles, can help them handle affairs in a more professional manner.

Thirdly, it shows the CPC's international vision. As China opens itself up more to the outside world, it is in increasing need of officials who can communicate with the international community. In the early stages of the P.R.C., a large number of non-communist personages took part in the government, a move which was meant to represent the reconciliation of different social strata after the civil war. Today it is meant to take full advantage of professionals from outside the Party and show international vision in employing people.

A broad vision stems from an open mind. Using non-communist personages as government ministers will, without a doubt, push forward construction of socialist democratic politics. In his speech at the Central Party School on June 25th, President Hu Jintao said that developing socialist democratic politics is an unwavering goal of the CPC. By inviting non-Party personages into the cabinet, the Party has provided a perfect justification for Hu's remarks.

By Cui Shixin, senior editor of People's Daily; translated by People's Daily Online.

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