IN an effort to hasten the coming of China's communist utopia, Zhuhai is luring scientists with the promise of a lifestyle worthy of the flashiest robber baron.
The southern coastal city recently began to offer scientists villas, maids, cars with chauffeurs, and heavy honorariums.
In return, Zhuhai expects the technicians to hustle inventions from the lab to the marketplace and catapult the city into the highest realm of high tech.
The lavish deal is perhaps the most innovative scheme in China's urgent effort to harness science and technology to the socialist cause of strengthening the economy and defeating capitalism. Yet by exploiting acquisitive impulses suited to Midas rather than Marx, Zhuhai reveals how far it takes its government-approved mission to revive socialism with aspects of capitalism.
The government used to be able to rally scientists by appealing to their patriotism and their desire to sacrifice themselves in order to speed the coming of communist paradise. But scientists and other Chinese are more self-interested and skeptical of government campaigns than before.
Zhuhai is one of China's five special economic zones (SEZs), southern enclaves allowed to offer preferential treatment to foreign investors and experiment with aspects of the free market. In a decade the volume of exports from Zhuhai has rocketed more than 50-fold and the value of its industrial output has ballooned 100 times. The former fishing village has one of the fastest growing economies in dynamic Guangdong Province.
The extraordinary success of Zhuhai has apparently given it an unusual degree of freedom to dabble in some aspects of capitalism. Senior leader Deng Xiaoping, the creator of the SEZs, urged Zhuhai to accelerate market-oriented reforms during a visit to the city late last month, says Liang Yaoming, deputy mayor of Zhuhai.
"We are building socialism with Chinese characteristics and encouraging some people to get rich first," says Mr. Liang, mastermind of Zhuhai's plan to entice scientists. "In some areas of society people become very rich - artists, for instance - so in developing the economy we are inspiring people to become rich too.
"The purpose is to make the living conditions so good that the scientists and technicians will want to stay for a long time," Liang adds. He says the scheme is unlikely to cause resentment among unrecognized scientists or other have-nots.
Since announcing the program, Zhuhai has received inquiries from thousands of mainland Chinese and about 50 scientists overseas, he says.
In 1980, there were only 10 people in Zhuhai with a university-level training in technical fields. Now there are several thousand.
Moreover, Zhuhai last year conceived 166 new products and put 134 of them into production. The goods garnered $5 million in profits and taxes and more than $10 million in export earnings, according to the official newspaper China Daily.
Other areas in China are not performing as well. Even in parts of Guangdong Province, "talent is being wasted," says Xie Fei, Guangdong's Communist Party secretary. Only 1 out of 4 of Guangdong's scientific achievements and 5 percent of its patents were put to commercial use from 1986 to 1990, he adds.
"Many enterprises ... have shortages of scientific researchers and technicians and many scientific research institutions have little work to do," Mr. Xie recently told the New China News Agency.
Under Deng's direction, the government calls science and technology the leading force for strengthening the economy. Such plans are reflected in Beijing's Eighth Five Year Plan (1991-96). In propaganda, the government has given the project a do-or-die urgency.
"Whether or not it is possible to give full play to the role of science and technology ... has a direct bearing on the future and fate of the party and state ... and whether or not socialism will eventually defeat capitalism," according to the party newspaper People's Daily.