As their reforms begin to offer new opportunities to the country, the leaders of China's Communist Party are deeply concerned with combating corruption and indiscipline within their own ranks and with maintaining law and order in society as a whole. The latest warning against moral laxity and the erosion of socialist ideals came in a speech by senior party leader Chen Yun at a party conference last weekend. Mr. Chen's remarks, including the affirmation that China is building socialism and aiming toward communism, were similar to those made by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping three months ago.
``If socialist culture and ethics are not promoted, the efforts to build material wealth will be led astray,'' said Chen, who is a member of the standing committee of the party's political bureau and head of the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
Chun's speech was published Monday in the People's Daily.
In another strongly worded speech at the same conference, veteran party leader Bo Yibo denounced the worship of money, ``bourgeois freedoms,'' and other tendencies regarded as corruptions from capitalist societies.
``Presently in some units, the attitude of no organization, no discipline, has reached very serious levels,'' Mr. Bo is quoted in the People's Daily as having said.
``The outlook of `seeing only money,' and the ideological trend of `money worship' are corrupting some of our people,'' he said. ``Some cadres even say, `If you want to develop the economy, you must relax the party spirit.' ''
Bo is vice-chairman of a three-year party campaign aimed at purging the 40-million-member organization of those who are corrupt and those who do not support Deng Xiaoping's reforms.
The party's call for more discipline and moral rectitude within its own ranks applies also to the country as a whole as the government faces a host of troublesome side effects from its economic reform program.
The most conspicuous of these have been two public protests, one in Tianjin earlier this month and one in Peking two months ago, which indicate a restive population that expects the government to answer citizen grievances and to deliver on what are seen as promises for a better material life.
The protest in the northern port city of Tianjin involved 2,000 to 3,000 rural peasants who live and work in the city and who wanted to share in the urban food subsidy. The monthly allocation of 7.5 yuan ($2.70), is granted only to permanent urban residents to compensate for the recent increase in food prices resulting from the removal of state price controls.
As with the smaller protest in Peking, officials made no immediate concessions to the demonstrators' demands, and the demonstrators were peacefully dispersed after a few days.
There are other widespread challenges to social order. Books, newspapers, and videotapes, which have been labeled undesirable or even pornographic, have appeared despite official restrictions. Tax evasion has become a serious matter, according to press reports. There also has been much official concern about bad sportsmanship and even violence on the part of the public at sports events.
The challenge for the party is finding a way to maintain social discipline and political controls while promoting economic freedom and the individual initiative needed to spur development. The solutions offered by party leaders often sound like the messages of the fiery Christian preachers of some decades ago who advocated the Protestant work ethic and singled out an undue regard for money as the root of all evil.
``Many comrades have informed us of the fact that money transactions have indeed already eroded the relations between our people, in particular, eroded our inner party life,'' party propaganda chief Deng Liqun told the leaders of Sichuan Province recently. ``Is it possible,'' he asked, ``that everybody in the party and in leading positions in industry is merely pursuing money?''
Mr. Deng denied this was the case and asserted there were many good Chinese communists who are highly disciplined and still ready to make personal sacrifices similar to those made in the revolutionary struggle of a generation ago.
Deng recommended that his comrades try to find a ``spiritual pillar'' for the nation by studying speeches by senior leader Deng Xiaoping on ideals and discipline and by party General Secretary Hu Yaobang on journalism and the arts.
The party propagandist's own answer was to work harder, avoid the pursuit of pleasure, and refrain from seeking fame and wealth.