Departing further from orthodox Marxism, Peking's reformist leaders have redefined China's stage of political development to legitimize greater leeway for market forces in the economy. The newly endorsed theory, widely publicized over the past week by the official press, holds that China is in the initial ``immature and imperfect'' stage of socialism.
The concept justifies a wide range of market initiatives on grounds that they are best suited to expand the country's still ``backward'' productive forces. Communist Party documents say this initial stage will last ``for a long time to come.''
Premier Zhao Ziyang will use the theory as a springboard for advancing economic reforms in his report to the 13th party congress, scheduled to open Oct. 25 in Peking, Chinese sources and United States officials say.
``The point is to give Zhao a mandate to move ahead,'' said one Washington-based US official.
Chinese party leaders place great importance on ideological definitions, because to retain authority they must reconcile their policies with the historical inevitabilities enshrined by Marxism.
The official New China News Agency Saturday said the theory was one of the most ``significant breakthroughs ... of paramount importance in underpinning the current economic policies.''
It supports efforts by Mr. Zhao, senior leader Deng Xiaoping, and their reformist colleagues to:
Promote private, collective, and foreign ownership as a supplement to the state sector.
Place some state-owned enterprises under private or collective management.
Increase the role of market-oriented fiscal and monetary levers, such as taxes, interest rates, and exchange rates, while curbing the role of central planning in regulating the economy.
Develop markets for labor, real estate, technology, and financial instruments, while allowing the payment of interest, dividends, and rent.
China's reformers have taken the offensive in ideology to counter attacks by conservative party theoreticians, who blame the reforms for social ills and the growing popularity of Western liberalism in China, Western diplomats and Chinese sources say.