AFP. 31 January 2002. Vietnam number one orders rethink on capitalists
in communist party.

HANOI -- Vietnamese leader Nong Duc Manh has instructed communist
ideologues to reconsider admitting capitalists to the party just a year
after the idea was rejected by top officials, state-run media said

Manh told the party's Theoretical Council to "explore if it is fitting
to allow party members to engage in private enterprise," the
English-language Vietnam News reported.

A party ordinance has explicitly barred members from "exploiting their
fellow human beings" ever since private enterprise first became legal
here with the launch of market reforms in the mid-1980s.

Party ideologues should review their definition of exploitation, Manh
told Tuesday's meeting of the Theoretical Council.

Manh's comments come as giant ideological soulmate China prepares to
vote on similar proposals by President Jiang Zemin at a key party
congress later this year.

Jiang's proposals, made in a key policy speech last July, sparked
outrage among hardliners in the Chinese party.

They charged that capitalism was already responsible for rampant
corruption in party ranks, which could only get worse if private
businessmen were admitted.

But Hanoi expressed great interest in Jiang's idea, even though it had
rejected a similar proposal from within the Vietnamese party at a
meeting of its central committee last January.

"We pay great attention to China's new points of view and theories on
socialism and the communist party," foreign ministry spokeswoman Phan
Thuy Thanh told AFP the following month.

The Vietnamese party last considered admitting private businessmen in
the run-up to a five-yearly congress last April, at which Manh was
appointed to the country's top job.

Party chiefs roundly rejected the proposal from its branch in the former
capitalist capital of Saigon.

The market reforms of the past 15 years meant ordinary people could
engage in private enterprise, committee spokesman Huu Tho told reporters
after the January meeting.

"But for party members we must have some limits on their economic
activity to ensure their quality."

The ban has sparked mounting cynicism among ordinary Vietnamese as many
top party leaders are reputed to have extensive business interests
through spouses and family.

The Ho Chi Minh City branch argued that party members should be allowed
to "exploit their fellow human beings" under certain conditions.

Those included that party entrepreneurs should not be serving government
employees and should have their own capital, a professional
qualification and managerial ability.

The business they establish should also have a "reasonable" system for
sharing profits with staff and should be in accordance with both the law
and "socialist orientation."

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Barry Stoller

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