Democratic Dictatorship of the (non) Proletariat? The business ramifications of a Non Communist Science and Technology Minister

Wan Gang, the former head of Tongji University in Shanghai, was appointed the new Minister of Science and Technology. Additionally he is also the vice chairman of the Chinese Zhi Gong Party.

Yes you read that correctly, newly appointed Minister Wan is NOT a member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

China does have 8 small parties that make up the non communist political landscape, however they have little power, but their members do hold various positions throughout government and society. Politically speaking, this appointment is interesting because of the non-CCP status of Wan Gang, and also of the membership of his party. The Chinese Zhi Gong (Public Interest) Party has about 15,600 members and is mainly comprised of returned overseas Chinese, relatives of overseas Chinese and scholars and researchers with strong overseas ties.

What is also interesting is Wan Gang’s education; he received his Ph. D from Technical University Clausthal of Germany making him the highest educated member of the Politburo, and his appointment reveals some underlying currents in Chinese politics and development trends.

His status as non CCP member also is a public relations tool to be used to hold up high the “banner of the people’s democratic dictatorship”, but in reality the political significance of his appointment is minor, it is rather the underlying development priorities that his appointment represents that are important.

First and probably most important is the appointment of a “real” expert of science and technology to the politburo, rather than a carefully groomed politician as the rest of the politburo is represents the importance placed on this area of development. His educational background, former status as the head of a major research university and his ties outside China make him an ideal candidate from which to grasp technology development goals and a true specialist on the normally generalist politburo. Finally and most importantly it also reveals the importance science and technology development has for the national leadership, so important in fact that political affiliation is not an issue.

Based on current estimates, spending on Technology R&D is set to grow to 2 percent of GDP in 2010 and 2.5 percent in 2020 as China sets its sights on changing its image from “Workshop of the World” to a high tech development center. The appointment of Dr. Wan represents this commitment to macro economic change, and a crucial part of this strategy also represents the creation of an atmosphere that encourages Chinese living abroad to “return to the motherland”. These “Sea Turtles” as they are called, usually bring advanced education and skills received in the West and years working on IT or other high technology areas. This represents the quickest way for China to become competitive in the world IT industry. Preferential policies are already in place to encourage these “turtles” to return home where they can expect positions of higher authority and more opportunities to develop than they would in the west. Under Dr. Wan’s leadership we can expect more pragmatic policies to be enacted to enhance Chinese research and high technology production capabilities.

Here in Zhongguancun, the Silicon Valley of China, as I pass the new Google building there are advertisements in English for high rent apartments, completely out of reach of the large Chinese and Korean student crowd, but a steal for the two Chinese American engineers I met last week who just started work at Qinghua Tongfang. They bring with them not only computer engineering degrees from Purdue and UMass, but also American values and culture.

Maybe that means I will be able to get a good burger in the near future.

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!