Two Cheers for Jiang Zemin's Three Represents

Mockery of retiring Chinse President Jiang Zemin's theory of the "Three Represents" is rife. Pundits scorn the theory, which says that the Communist party should not only represent workers and peasants but also society's "advanced productive forces, culture and interests," and they deem it wholly inadequate to China's mounting problems of inequality, corruption, and lack of democracy.

These critics are right to point out the theory's shortcomings, and the nauseating way that "Jiang Zemin Thought" is promulgated does remind us of Mao's Cultural Revolution. But they miss the point that the "Three Represents" marks a leap forward over the ideology it seeks to replace--the dictatorship of the proletariat. Under today's arrangements, China faces a choice between the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" or the "Three Represents." Which to choose seems very clear to me.

The big contribution of the "Three Represents" is that, for the first time, a ruling communist party gives up - of its own volition - the idea of class warfare. The gist of the Three Represents is not that the ruling party should protect the interests of capitalists at the expense of others, but that capitalists should not be automatically excluded from China's political process.

Of course, the status of capitalists will improve once the "Three Represents" is implemented. But those who argue that this will be achieved at the expense of China's working class need a reality check. Today, private firms employ more of China's working class than state-owned enterprises (SOEs). With a fraction of the resources of the SOEs, private firms employ much of the proletariat, produce goods demanded by proletarian consumers, and, because of their superior performance, safeguard the interests of proletarian savers by actually paying back their bank loans.