Acting like an American politician in an election year, Chinese Communist Party Chairman Hua Guofeng has promised more money and benefits to hundreds of millions of Chinese and new measures to halt serious urban unemployment.
Details released by Peking today from a speech given by Hua Monday show the Chinese leader going further than ever before in encouraging hard work through material incentives rather than political appeals.
Hua also seemed unusually frank about what has been a sensitive subject in China: the existence of idle urban workers who, according to one source, may number 20 million.
Although the address before China's National People's Congress has not been released in full, the excerpts released by the official New China News Agency appear to betray great concern about the morale of Chinese laborers.
Public candor and willingness to use money and benefits to motivate workers - methods frowned on by admirers of Hua's predecessor, Mao Tsetung have usually been identified with Vice Chairman Deng Xiaoping, 74, rather than Hua, 58.
In the speech excerpts, however, Hua appears to be warmly embracing Deng's incentive plan, even in the face of some recent criticism by holdovers from the Mao era.
According to the reports, Hua said China's peasants would "have an unprecedented increase in their incomes this year." He emphasized that peasants make up 80 percent of China's nearly 1 billion people and said increased income coming to them and their rural organizations would be about $8.3 billion.
The summary said, "A plan has been made to raise the wages and salaries of part of the urban workers and staff this year, and those workers and staff members who have done a good job and contributed more to the state would be encouraged with commendations and material rewards."
Another Chinese news agency story reporting on a Hua appearance indicated that the chairman even was willing to allow an inflationary spiral in order to increase individual incomes.
When he visited the Peking delegation at the conference, one delegate warned that "the government should be very careful in raising the prices it pays for farm produce." Hua admitted in his reply that food prices in the cities would go up and thus urban salaries would also be raised to maintain the standard of living.
In the past, Peking has bragged about having one of the only major economies in the world not suffering from inflation.
Peking raised wages for about 60 percent of factory and office workers in 1977, the first general increase in more than a decade, but there had been no announcement up to now of further widespread increases.
A speech said to have been made in April by Vice Chairman Li Xiannian and reported in the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao said Peking incurred a $6 billion deficit because of the wage increases, among other things. While not commenting on this in the summaries, Hua appeared to warn against raising hopes to high.
Despite the need to improve people's livelihood, Hua said, "the state's revenues were limited and so the sums allotted for this purpose could not be very large"
This statement appeared to refer specifically to China's unemployed, reported in Li's speech to be estimated at 20 million workers. The summary of Hua's speech said "employment was at present an outstanding question. Because of interference and sabotage by Lin Biao [Lin Piao] and the Gang of Four [dogmatic Politburo members who have died or been purged] in the past 10 years or more, development has been slow in the economic and other spheres, with people waiting for jobs outnumbering employment opportunities."
Several youths seeking urbans jobs besieged employment offices in some Chinese cities earlier this year and caused a riot in Shanghai.
Hua promised to try to provide money for a New Deal-style scheme to create more jobs in the cities, particularly in areas such as "handicrafts, repair and renovating services, commerce, service trades, restaurants, tourism, urban public utilities and gardening."
Many of the unemployed are youths who have resisted job assignments in the countryside, where the work is physically harder and the salaries and guaranteed benefits are lower.