The Three Represents is a socio-political ideology credited to General Secretary Jiang Zemin which became a guiding ideology of the Communist Party of China at its 16th Party Congress in 2002. The official statement of the ideology stipulates that the Communist Party of China should be representative to advanced social productive forces, advanced culture, and the interests of the overwhelming majority. The ideology is important that it attempted to transform the Communist Party to become a ruling party representing the majority of the people as opposed to its old image of a vanguard revolutionary party driven by the proletariat. To a certain degree it legitimized the inclusion of members of the business class, i.e. capitalists, into the party. It has been criticized as a political legacy project by leader Jiang Zemin with no practical application, with the main purpose being to equate him with former leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, who each had their ideological vision enshrined in the party constitution.
The actual function of the theory is two-fold. It legitimizes the inclusion of capitalists and private entrepreneurs within the Communist Party, and as a result has been the subject of quiet but heated opposition within the party. Second, it is an attempt to cement Jiang Zemin's historical legacy as a Marxist theorist on the level of Mao Zedong for Mao Zedong thought and Deng Xiaoping for socialism with Chinese characteristics.
One possible interpretation of the "Three Represents":
Some of the difficulty in interpreting the theory may be due to translation difficulties; but many Chinese, including members of the Party, find it incomprehensible. Even the translation of the name itself is awkward. Although open criticism of the Theory of the Three Represents is taboo, there have been reports of private unease at this theory from within the Communist Party of China for a number of reasons. Many dislike the focus of the theory on the advanced social productive forces, since it ignores the widening social gap between the rich and poor. Also many feel that Jiang Zemin's promotion of the theory was similar to the creation of a cult of personality.
One of the main goals of the Three Represents is to change the Communist Party of China into a governmental and more democratic party, rather than a strictly communist system of government. This opens up the Party to "the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people", such as businessmen and managers. This makes for a party ("dǎng" 党) that is much more attractive for a greater number of people. The Theory of the Three Represents is another expansion to what the communist government of China would define as "allies". In the very beginning of Maoist regime, everyone except farmers and workers were classified as "class enemies". Over the years, the number of people that could in fact still be defined as "class enemies" kept reducing, seeing how the number of people that belonged to the "wavering middle" (people that were not allies, but could in fact not threaten the Party's regime) increased.
Since the ideology's inception its reception has been cold both inside the party and in the general populace. Since taking power, the Hu-Wen Administration has gradually moved to take on Scientific Development Concept as the guiding ideology, and mentions Three Represents only in official documents and programs.