China’s top 100: local cadres beat tech titans to dominate Communist Party reform honours list

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China’s top 100: local cadres beat tech titans to dominate Communist Party reform honours list

Grass-roots Communist Party cadres outnumber entrepreneurs and scientists in a list of 100 individuals commended by the party for their “outstanding contributions” to the country’s economic reform.

The list, published by People’s Daily on Monday, was compiled to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the reform and opening up policy, which set the country on a path of unprecedented growth and economic liberalisation.

The list was released for public consultation and will be confirmed if there are no objections.

It includes many big names – from tech entrepreneurs and scientists to private businesspeople, economists and athletes – whose achievements mirrored some of the milestones of the country’s 40 years of development.

In all, 14 entrepreneurs from the mainland were nominated, including the founders of China’s three biggest internet companies – Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

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But the biggest contingent – nearly one-quarter – was a group of obscure, low-ranking party cadres who spent decades working in either the countryside or state-owned industries.

Some introduced progressive programmes in the early days of the reform, including developments in the rural economy, enterprises, urbanisation and village committee elections.

But many others seemed less related to late leader Deng Xiaoping’s call for liberalisation than to serving the present administration’s top agenda, which includes fighting corruption, pollution and poverty, and embraces an increasingly assertive external policy.

For instance, Wang Shumao, a cadre in the southern island province of Hainan, made the list for “devoting himself vigorously to the protection of [China’s] territorial sovereignty and maritime interests in the South China Sea”. Wang, a fisherman and deputy commander of the maritime militia in the township of Tanmen, has been routinely praised by state media for his attempt in 2012 to block Philippine vessels from accessing the Scarborough Shoal.

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Shanghai-based political analyst Chen Daoyin said including a large number of grass-roots cadres was in line with the official emphasis on party building, a political priority of President Xi Jinping’s second term.

“Commemorating reform and opening up is a way to serve the current political needs,” he said.

Leading scientists and technicians made the second-biggest category, reflecting Beijing’s drive for scientific and technological innovation to move the country’s manufacturing-led economy up the industrial value chain.

Among those lauded are Nobel laureate Tu Youyou, who helped develop an anti-malaria medicine; Yuan Longping, China’s “father of hybrid rice”; as well as a number of space and defence scientists.

Others nominees include state-owned enterprise executives, artists and ethnic minority cadres, as well as a prominent Maoist scholar known as the “red theorist”.

The list was based on recommendations by local authorities and various departments, People’s Daily reported, without revealing the selection criteria.

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