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Getting onto the Party Congress
Summary:One entrepreneur's quest to become a delegate to the Communist Party's National Congress and how it was more difficult than steering his company's IPO.

By Chen Yong
Issue 569, May 14
Nation, Page 11
Translated by Tang Xiangyang
Original article: [Chinese]

What does a Chinese businessman need to do in order to ensure his place at the party congress?

When he was finally confirmed as a delegate to the Communist Party’s 17th National Congress, one entrepreneur sent a message to all of his employees. He said that the process had been even more difficult than running his own company, and he had been anxious throughout - from receiving a recommendation and being approved by higher levels of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to being accepted as a candidate.

But the man, who the EO will refer to as Zhang Chun, thought it was worth all the effort. “For non-civil-servants, being a national delegate to the CPC means one is very near to the highest authority in China,” he said.

According to official media reports, 2,270 delegates will attend the upcoming 18th national congress, 50 more than were at the 17th. The new ones will be from industry, and the others will come from 40 different electoral groups.

Watching news programs on CCTV every day, reading party newspapers and attending courses organized by the CPC committee, were essential preparation for Zhang Chun.

He also had to cultivate members of the party and the Communist Youth League within his company. Additionally, a party committee was set up to ensure that the whole company was “politically correct”.

“The chances of getting to be a national party delegate are one in a thousand. I have been very nervous ever since I was recommended, and was even more nervous when the company was preparing to go public.”

Zhang Chun is a well-known entrepreneur in eastern China. He started off running his family business and is now president of several listed companies. As his companies grow, he receives more and more titles. When he was nominated as the party delegate, he organized courses for his employees to learn party history and theories, bought tickets for them to watch “red movies” and required them to study party leaders’ speeches.

One person from the Organization Department of the CPC said that between July 2006 to July 2007 – the run-up to the 17th national conference - the central committee sent 63 inspection groups with a total of 1,000 party members to 31 provinces, ministries, centrally-owned enterprises and military units to monitor the local election.

“We don’t just cultivate party members, but also members of the Communist Youth League. We regularly organize for trips of party members to Jinggang Mountain to revisit the party’s history,” Zhang Chun said.

He admitted that he hesitated for a moment when he was first recommended, but said that this didn’t last long, adding that, ”being a party delegate will help promote my business.”

Zhang has been even stricter with himself and his companies since he was recommended.

“I can’t make any mistakes. Everybody, especially the party leaders, has their eye on me.” He hasn’t slept much recently, spending more than 12 hours in meetings every day. He pays attention to every detail about himself and his companies.

He says that it’s his responsibility, as a delegate, to bridge the gap in understanding between Beijing and the locals. He also sees it as his duty to manage his companies well.

In 1921 when the CPC was founded, there were only 13 delegates; but the number has increased 175-fold, and this year there will be 2,270 representing over 80 million party members nationwide. Since Zhang Chun was recommended, he has been reassessed on numerous occasions.

Casting his mind back to one of these inspections, a senior executive working for Zhang’s remembers that his boss had never been so strict. He wanted his employees to be highly energetic and said that “mistakes are absolutely unacceptable.”

“That day he looked very serious, the executive recalled, “ I still remember, Zhang said that if his candidacy was blocked then the party leader wouldn’t be happy and ‘you guys wouldn’t be happy either.”

Zhang was indeed very nervous. He didn’t sleep well the previous night and got up at 4 am that day. He went to through the office checking whether there was anything that needed to be done. He finished the inspection at 6 am. To relieve his nerves, he exercised for half an hour. Then he had a quick breakfast and started waiting in his office at 9 a.m., with an hour to go until the inspection team arrived.

Everything went smoothly. The party inspectors were satisfied with the development of his companies, the party team within his companies and the harmonious relationship between the owners and employees. Two hours later, all the inspectors left, and Zhang was released, but he knew for sure that this was just the beginning.

Aside from dealing with various inspections, Zhang Chun also had to meet people from the all levels of the organization department. He had to explain what he thought it meant to be a party delegate, why he wanted to be one, what books he read and how he saw the party’s position in power.

Zhang admitted he was puzzled by these questions; he had never thought about them before. But, thanks to news programs on CCTV and books and articles that he’d read, he managed to answer appropriately.

An unnamed source from a local “organization department” said that even after getting recommended to be a party delegate, a candidate has to go through a very strict series of inspections, covering everything from how they dress to how they promote their business. He was also supposed to maintain a good relationship with every government department and every other party delegate.

Being a party delegate is not an easy job.

In theory, the delegates to the party congress elect the Central Committee as well as the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, referred to jointly as the “two commissions,” but it’s the presidium that provides the list of nominees.

At the National People’s Congress, which, unlike the CPC meeting, has the status of a state assembly and meets annually, delegates vote by pushing a button. The party’s national congress holds votes by a show of hands, and it’s easy to spot who supports what.

Aside from “electing” new members for the “two commissions”, the party delegates review those commissions’ previous work.

The delegates are given three colored sheets of paper, each of which lists the candidates for different elections– there’s a red sheet with a list of candidates for the Central Committee, a brown one for future alternative members of the Central Committee and a pink one for the future members of the Commission for Discipline Inspection. Each list has around 200 names, but has detailed information on each candidate.

Before the formal election, materials are distributed and there’s a brief welcome meeting, where central party officials talk to delegates, who are on their best behavior for the occasion.

The congress usually lasts for seven days and the agenda is different for each day.

As with the National People’s Congress, delegates to the party congress are supposed to span all social classes, including workers, farmers, soldiers, athletes, medical workers and lawyers.

Both congresses have a presidium that introduces laws for consideration. The presidium of the party congress only had eight grass-root delegates and five businessmen from non-state-owned firms.

The agendas of both congresses are also similar, but at the party congress there tend to be more speeches from delegates and they make speeches in order of their rank in the state administration.

After the seven day congress in 2007, Zhang Chun said he was exhausted - not physically, but mentally because he knew that mistakes were “absolutely unacceptable”.

Correction - when this story was first published on our English website on May 23, it was accompanied by an image of the National People's Congress. It was replaced with the correct image - one from the National Congress of the Communist Party - on May 24.

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