China to protect private property

CHINA is changing its constitution to protect private property rights for the first time since the 1949 communist revolution — a key step in making capitalism its economy’s driving force.

A constitutional amendment endorsed by the Communist Party went before legislators yesterday and their approval seemed certain.

Party leaders who control the legislature already say private property is essential to advancing economic reforms that have let millions of Chinese lift themselves out of poverty.

Party leaders also sent the National People’s Congress a proposed amendment to enshrine in the constitution the theories of former leader Jiang Zemin, who invited capitalists to join the party, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Such changes would bring China’s legal framework in line with its market-oriented reality. Entrepreneurs who play a critical role in creating jobs and wealth have been lobbying for the constitutional protection.

“The leadership has recognised that the private sector will be the major engine of [economic] growth in the coming years,” said Joseph Cheng, a political scientist at City University of Hong Kong. “I think there’s a strong consensus and this is largely uncontroversial.”

The proposed amendment on property says “private property obtained legally shall not be violated”, according to Xinhua. It said that would put private property “on an equal footing with public property”.

Despite a lack of constitutional protections so far, millions of Chinese have plunged ahead in starting businesses and buying homes and stock shares issued by state companies.

The proposed amendment on property is expected to lead to a series of legal changes that would make it easier to trade real estate and other private property.

“Individual Chinese citizens, at least the wealthy ones, now own property,” Cheng said. “They want their property rights to be safe.”

The amendment on Jiang’s theories says they shall be considered guiding principles of the nation, along with the ideology of communist founder Mao Zedong and the late supreme leader Deng Xiaoping, who launched China’s economic reforms, Xinhua reported.

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