Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Capitalism and the Law: China to Consider Changing Property Law

There are some interesting developments taking place in the People's Republic of China:

Millions of Chinese who have plunged into capitalism by starting businesses and investing in stocks and bonds will be guaranteed their right to private property for the first time since the 1949 revolution under a constitutional amendment proposed Monday by communist leaders.

The change would give an official status to the entrepreneurs who once were considered the enemy of communism but now drive China's economy, creating millions of jobs and dotting the skylines of Beijing and other cities with office towers and apartment blocks.

After months of debate, party leaders submitted the proposed amendment Monday to the National People's Congress, along with a proposal to enshrine in the constitution the theories of Jiang Zemin, the former leader who invited capitalists to join the party. Approval by the legislature should be a formality.

The changes reflect the party's decision to cast off leftist dogma in pursuit of prosperity and national status — and to embrace the forces driving change in order to stay in control.

"The Chinese leadership understands that the private sector will be the engine for economic growth," said Joseph Cheng, a political scientist at the City University of Hong Kong.

In part the change is symbolic, bringing the constitution up to date with China's market-driven reality. But it will also likely strengthen the rule of law in a business environment where many common transactions go on without legal structure or regulation. [AP]
I have not read the proposed amendment nor do I know how much force the Chinese constitution has on day-to-day political life in China. Yet if China is attempting bring the rule of law and respect for private property to its political institutions, even small changes are welcome news.

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