Property rights could become Xi’s next target
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times 2018.1.22

Not long ago, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) political theory periodical Qiushi (求是, “Seeking Truth”) published an article by Zhou Xincheng (周新城) — a professor in the School of Marxism Studies at Renmin University of China, my old school, which has been called the second party school — marking the 170th anniversary of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ Communist Manifesto.

The article criticized property rights as advocated by US economist Steven Cheung (張五常) and Chinese economist Wu Jinglian (吳敬璉), quoting the economic theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and stating that “the elimination of private property is an objectively necessary social developmental trend.”

Following reform and deregulation, China amended its constitution to allow private property, and Article 13 of China’s constitution states: “[T]he State, in accordance with law, protects the rights of citizens to private property and to its inheritance.”

In addition, with reference to “[a]ll foreign enterprises, other foreign economic organizations as well as Chinese-foreign joint ventures within Chinese territory,” Article 18 states that “[t]heir lawful rights and interests are protected by the laws of the People’s Republic of China.”

However, the CCP has never had any qualms about kicking their benefactors in the teeth, so the article in Qiushi is not just an expression of Zhou’s personal opinion.

On Jan. 6, the Chinese State Council allowed the border between the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the rest of China to be removed, after 35 years. This is tantamount to abolishing Shenzhen’s status as a special economic zone, so it will be interesting to see if it implies a complete rejection of Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) reform line.

The CCP has been busy establishing party branches at foreign companies in China over the past few years, so another thing that should be given attention is whether all of this was in preparation for taking over management of these businesses.

Another question is how foreign businesses will deal with the great changes that Red Guard Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is bringing to China, as he brings back the times of Mao Zedong (毛澤東) and perhaps even the Cultural Revolution.

The second plenary session of the 19th CCP Central Committee that met on Thursday and Friday last week discussed constitutional amendments and the communique issued after the meeting said that “[m]ajor theoretical achievements, principles and policies adopted at the 19th CPC National Congress should be incorporated into a revision to the Constitution.”

The constitutional amendments are to be made in March by the Chinese National People’s Congress and while most observers expected Xi Jinping Thought to be included, the question is whether changes to property rights will also be included.

Article 12 of the constitution regulates expropriation of private property, saying that “[t]he State may, in the public interest and in accordance with law, expropriate or requisition private property for its use and make compensation for the private property expropriated or requisitioned.”

It also deals with foreign companies, as Article 15 states that, “[t]he State prohibits in accordance with law any organization or individual from disturbing the socio-economic order.”

For a rogue regime, finding a reason is never difficult.

Fifity years after Mao’s Cultural Revolution, his spirit has found its way into Xi.

It seems as if abolishing private property could be the next goal and that it is only a matter of “when,” not “if.” The softest targets are Hong Kong and Taiwanese investments in China.

The whole world should be on guard.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Perry Svensson

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