In what is viewed as sea change in the views of China’s ruling Communist Party towards private businessmen, the wealthiest man in the country, Liang Wengen, may soon join the ruling Central Committee, according to local media.
In the event that Liang, 55, is selected by the party’s congress in 2012, he would be the first entrepreneur to join the Committee, which essentially rules the vast nation.
Chinese media reported that Liang passed a vetting procedure and is on schedule to join the 300-member committee by next October.
Liang, who is estimated by the Hurun Rich List to be worth about $11-billion, accumulated his fortune largely from China’s massive construction boom. His company Sany Group manufactures cranes and excavators.
BBC’s correspondent in Beijing noted that Liang joining the ruling elite would represent a hugely symbolic change in the politburo’s view of business and private enterprise.
However, despite the rapid modernization of China’s economy, much of the nation’s industries remain state-owned with the Communist Party wielding enormous influence and control over the country’s financial affairs.
In fact, it was not until 2001, when China’s President Jiang Zemin said he would allow private business owners into the Party.
Liang has been a Communist Party member since 2004.
Willy Lam, a China analyst at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the British newspaper Daily Telegraph: If Mr. Liang is admitted to the central committee this will be a statement of reassurance to the private sector.”
However, he added that Liang's immense wealth might still prevent him from having any real say in policy decisions.
Traditionally these party delegates do not like rich entrepreneurs, he said.
Moreover according to media reports, even if Liang is elected to the committee, he would initially only be an alternate (or reserve) member, which would mean he could not cast votes on policy.
He could however ascend to full member (and gain voting rights) upon the death or retirement of an existing member.