Three Represents
A slogan in Futu, Hubei, which reads: "Practice the Thought of Three Represents, advance the reform on rural tax system", with the word "reform" (改革) blocked by a billboard.
Simplified Chinese三个代表
Traditional Chinese三個代表
The important thought of Three Represents
Simplified Chinese「三个代表」重要思想
Traditional Chinese「三個代表」重要思想

The Three Represents or the important thought of Three Represents is a guiding socio-political theory within China credited to then-general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Jiang Zemin, which was ratified at the Sixteenth Party Congress in 2002. The Three Represents defines the role of the CCP. Jiang Zemin first introduced his theory on 25 February 2000 while on an inspection tour in Maoming, Guangdong province.


Further information: Ideology of the Chinese Communist Party

Following the tenure of Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin articulated a new theory to define the new relationship between the party and the people, which is named “Three Represents.”[1] The theory characterizes the CCP as:[1]

  1. Representing the development trend of China's advanced productive forces.
  2. Representing the orientation of China's advanced culture.
  3. Representing the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people.

Justification of the “Three Represents”

After Jiang Zemin first delivered his speech about his theory on 25 February 2000, it had brought a wide attention and many interpretations of the meaning of the speech. Jiang said that by representing Chinese people in three levels, the party used the interests and demands of the overwhelming majority of the people to replace the specific interests of people from different quarters, especially the class nature of the working class. As Xiao Gongqin argues, the innovation of the “three represents” theory was meant to complete the historical ideology transformation of CCP from a revolutionary party to a ruling party. The CCP can keep its legitimacy under the ‘socialist market economy’ or any system that is conducive to the development of advanced productive forces, without promoting any revolutionary movement or keeping the ideal of egalitarianism.[2]

Zheng Bijian, the executive vice president of the Central Party School who has been active in helping to create the “three represents,” argued that a party of the whole people would be a catch-all party that would include diverse and conflicting interests. To include all of the broad mass of contemporary Chinese intellectuals, science and technology workers, cultural workers, and economic managers, in the category of the so-called ‘middle class’ would weaken or even obliterate the working class.[3]

In Jiang's speech on the "three represents" on the 80th anniversary of the founding of the CCP, he claimed that the expansion of "working class" would help the party remain advanced as the vanguard of the working class by expanding its popular support and increasing its social influence. Jiang made a statement on the concept of the working class that it includes intellectuals:

“With intellectuals being part of the working class, the scientific, technical and educational level of the working class has been raised considerably... Consequently some workers have changed their jobs. But this has not changed the status of the Chinese working class. On the contrary, this will serve to improve the overall quality of the working class and give play to its advantages as a group in the long run. The Chinese working class has always been the basic force for promoting the advanced productive forces in China. Our Party must remain the vanguard of the working class and unswervingly and wholeheartedly rely on the working class.”[4]

Influence and reception

Jiang's theory was the subject of significant internal debate.[5][6] Supporters viewed it as a further development of socialism with Chinese characteristics.[5] Certain segments within the CCP criticized the Three Represents as being un-Marxist and a betrayal of basic Marxist values.[5] Criticism originated on all ideological sides of the party.[6]

Jiang disagreed with the assertion that his theories were not Marxist, and concluded that attaining the communist mode of production (as formulated by earlier communists) was more complex than had been realized; it was useless to try to force a change, as it had to develop naturally by following the economic laws of history.[7] The theory is most notable for allowing capitalists, officially referred to as the "new social strata", to join the party on the grounds that they engaged in "honest labour and work" and through their labour contributed "to build[ing] socialism with Chinese characteristics."[7] Jiang's decision to allow capitalists into the CCP was criticized as "political misconduct" and "ideological confusions."[8] These critiques helped fuel the rise of the Chinese New Left movement.[8]

Academic Lin Chun writes that while "nothing was politically incorrect in this banal statement" of the Three Represents, "it simply signaled that the party no longer even pretended to be the vanguard of the working class."[6]


  1. ^ a b Bo, Zhiyue (September 2004). "Hu Jintao and the CCP's ideology: A historical perspective". Journal of Chinese Political Science. 9 (2): 27–45. doi:10.1007/BF02877001. ISSN 1080-6954. S2CID 148491989.
  2. ^ 萧, 功秦 (2006). "改革开放以来意识形态创新的历史考察 - 中国知网". 天津社会科学. (04). doi:10.16240/j.cnki.1002-3976.2006.04.008. Retrieved 17 April 2021.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ Fewsmith, Joseph (December 2001). "Rethinking the Role of the CCP: Explicating Jiang Zemin's Party Anniversary Speech" (PDF). China Leadership Monitor. No.1 Part 2: 5.
  4. ^ "Jiang Zemin's Speech at the Meeting Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the Founding of the Communist Party of China China". China Internet Information Center. 1 July 2001. Retrieved 17 April 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ a b c Dittmer, Lowell (2003). "Chinese Factional Politics Under Jiang Zemin". Journal of East Asian Studies. 3 (1): 97–128. doi:10.1017/S1598240800001132. ISSN 1598-2408. JSTOR 23417742. S2CID 155266344.
  6. ^ a b c Lin, Chun (2006). The transformation of Chinese socialism. Durham [N.C.]: Duke University Press. p. 258. ISBN 978-0-8223-3785-0. OCLC 63178961.
  7. ^ a b Kuhn, Robert Lawrence (2004). The Man who Changed China: The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin. Crown Publishers. pp. 107–110. ISBN 978-1-4000-5474-9.
  8. ^ a b Moore, Scott (2022). China's next act : how sustainability and technology are reshaping China's rise and the world's future. New York, NY. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-19-760401-4. OCLC 1316703008.

Further reading