The last few months has seen a marked advance by China’s state-owned firms, whether in the coal or steel sectors or in infrastructure and manufacturing.
As the private sector has withered in the financial crisis, the government has taken the opportunity to reassert Communist party control over various strategic industries. In Shanxi, for example, the government has seized over 1500 coal mines in order to have complete control over the industry.
Perhaps the feeling was that China’s boisterous entrepreneurs needed reining in and the government’s core values needed underlining.
Now comes the news of a way to reinforce discipline and make money from it at the same time. The United Front Work department of the central committee has organized a five-day "political training" course in Beijing for private bosses.
Professors at the Central Party School said the training would help strengthen the political thoughts of those people working in the non-public sector. A lucky first group of 65 bosses from Chongqing has just finished the first course.
No doubt Bo Xilai, the governor of the municipality and an admirer of all things Red, took a personal interest in the idea. Over the next five years, 10,000 bosses from Chongqing are going to be trained, apparently.
Guangdong, Anhui, Guizhou, Hunan and Sichuan are all quickly following suit. Meanwhile, Xinhua has reported that the party intends to set up more branch offices in private sector firms. This is a great money-spinner. Bosses can hardly refuse an invitation to attend without offending the local officials they rely upon to ease their business.
Meanwhile, according to the Organization Department of the central committee, a Party branch should be set up in a "non-public institution" when it has three or more Communist party members. The command economy, if it ever went away, is back with a vengeance.