For the Chinese, enterprise is the catchword today

When Wang Chuanhe shipped 85 tons of garlic tips 3,000 kilometers to sell in Harbin, he arrived in the city only to be told that the local vegetable authorities were already overstocked.

Undeterred, Mr. Wang, one of China's 3 million new-breed businessmen, simply ran an advertisement: ''Who wants 85 tons of garlic tips?'' across Page 1 of the district newspaper. Then he sat back and waited for the calls.

Five years ago, in China's regimented economy with the repressions of the Cultural Revolution only just diminishing, such initiative would have been virtually unheard of, if not punished.

But under China's new responsibility system, which for the first time in 30 years links a Chinese worker's income to his actual labor, productivity has soared, and urban and rural incomes doubled. Enterprise is the catchword of the day.

After five years of gradual economic reforms, 3 million Chinese are now involved in individual (private) enterprise; performance-based contracts have spurred the productivity of the urban and rural work forces; and a new system of taxation is not only encouraging efficient management, but also the pursuit of profit by state enterprises.

Despite the success of China's new look economy in sending growth rates rocketing, the reforms and their attendant freedoms have created almost as many problems for Chinese leaders as they have solved.

When a Hubei peasant, Lu Chunmin, threw a party to celebrate the $60,000 he had earned in a year under the liberal new economic laws, the fish farmer was horrified to see jealous relatives devour six of his pigs and cart off tons of building supplies as well as nearly $4,000 in cash.

According to the Communist Party newspaper, the People's Daily, Mr. Lu is not the first of China's suddenly prosperous peasants to suffer at the hands of ''greedy grabbers.''

In fact, the reforms, with their emphasis on individual initiative and greater autonomy of enterprises, have brought not only the harassment of China's nouveau riche but also an upsurge in malpractice and corruption. And that has only complicated the massive task of balancing the Chinese economy.

Four enterprising Henan medical workers were fined recently after it was discovered they were reaping a tidy profit by altering injections inscribed ''for animals only'' and offloading them into unsuspecting human patients.

In Shanghai alone, more than $8 million had been recovered by March this year after 11,000 suspects were detained for questioning in 9,813 cases of alleged economic malpractice.

The Chinese press is filled with letters of complaint about such practices and corruption at all levels.

''Without a backdoor contact, buying a gallon of diesel fuel seems harder than shinnying up the sky,'' a group of peasants said in a recent letter to the Peking-based newspaper, the People's Daily.

The group complained that once a household had saved enough to buy a small tractor, it usually needed a full-time buyer to scout out supplies of fuel. But people with ''backdoor'' contacts had no such problems. In fact, they could ''scalp'' fuel for up to three times the state price.

At the opening of the sixth National People's Congress last week, where for the first time private enterprise is being represented - by a Wuhan bar owner and a free-lance photographer - Premier Zhao admitted that China's development was still being hampered by ''appalling'' mismanagement and corruption among officials.

''Our government work still leaves much to be desired and there are many obstacles on the road ahead,'' he said. ''The waste of human material and financial resources is appalling. The unhealthy tendencies and practices in society have not been forcefully and completely checked, and there is still no lack of economic crime.''

But by far the most serious and far-reaching problem to grow out of the reforms is the imbalance between the output of heavy and light industry. Despite an official policy that gives priority to the production of consumer goods, heavy industry last year grew by 9.9 percent, compared to a 4.7 percent drop in 1981.

In contrast, light industry, which climbed 14 percent in 1981, managed only a 5.7 percent increase last year.

The official adoption last year of a three-tiered economy where a wide range of industrial products became subject to noncompulsory planning and the spate of uncontrolled investments by individuals and collectives are largely seen as being responsible for the wide discrepancies between the growth rates of heavy and light industry.

With heavy industry already showing an 11.9 percent increase in the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter of 1982 and light industry lagging with only a 3.3 percent improvement for the first quarter, tough new measures to bring production into line with government planning were announced at the Congress.

Premier Zhao said the government would force inefficient enterprises to improve, diversify, or close down. He added that the government would control capital construction that is hampering priority projects and limit heavy industrial growth in favor of expanded production of consumer goods.

Reductions in the growth rates for agriculture and for both heavy and light industry were also announced, and production units were warned against unauthorized investments that could threaten long-term economic goals.

The new targets are about half those achieved last year. They aim for only 4 percent growth in agriculture compared to 11 percent achieved last year, 3.9 percent in heavy industry compared to last year's 9.9 percent, and 4.1 percent for light industry compared to 5.7 percent last year.

Announcing the lower growth rates, the head of China's state planning commission, Vice-Premier Yao Yilin, said excessive growth in heavy industry and the diversion of investment funds into projects not necessarily in line with government objectives were the greatest concerns of China's economic planners.

''It is imperative to exercise appropriate economic control in 1983 over growth rates of investment in fixed assets and growth in heavy industrial production so as not to affect light industry,'' Mr. Yao said.

The slow growth in consumer goods has been highlighted by the considerable increases in urban and rural incomes, which reached an annual average of $250 and $135, respectively, last year.

A 2 percent rise in the cost of living last year was superseded by a 3.4 percent improvement in urban wages and a 15.2 percent hike in rural incomes.

Spurred on by the sense of competition the responsibility system has lent retailing, retail sales rose 7.3 percent in real terms last year for a total value of $128.5 billion.

A recent survey of Peking found that more than 80 percent of households owned a television.

A Peking worker had this to say about the Tianqiao department store where he has bought five television sets for neighbors:

''I like to shop here solely because of its good service. They deliver any heavy pieces you buy to your home free of charge, they exchange the television for a new one if it doesn't work properly, and when yours needs repairs, they lend you one while yours is being fixed. What else can a shopper expect from a store?''

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