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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 August 2006, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Communists join Wal-Mart's ranks
Wal-Mart perform a warm-up dance at a store in Shanghai
Going red? The Communist Party plans to set-up in Wal-Mart stores
Retail giant Wal-Mart, regarded by many as an icon of global capitalism, has become host to a branch of the Chinese Communist Party, according to reports.

Staff at a Wal-Mart store in the city of Shenyang set up the branch earlier this month, state media reported.

The move to establish a presence in the Chinese arm of the US firm is a first by the party, which sees itself as "the vanguard of the Chinese working class".

Wal-Mart has resisted moves to unionise its workforce across the world.

However, the firm - which is the world's biggest retailer - recently permitted workers at all of its Chinese stores to become members of trade unions.


Chinese President Hu Jintao is reported to be keen to see party-controlled unions established in Wal-Mart stores across the country, as part of increased efforts to unionise employees at foreign-owned companies operating in China.

Staff at at least 17 Wal-Mart stores in the country have formed unions since July, according to the All-China Federation of Trade Unions.

While Wal-Mart's acceptance of unions and, seemingly, Chinese communists will be regarded as something of a sea-change, China's all-powerful party has undergone considerable changes itself since the days of Chairman Mao.

The Communist Party embraced market reforms in the 1980s, a move which helped transform China's economy into a global powerhouse.

And the party officially opened itself up to capitalist members in 2002.

"Employees at the Wal-Mart store [in Shenyang] will now have access to Communist Party of China membership," China's Xinhua news agency reported.

A member of staff in the store's communications department confirmed official Chinese reports, the US Associated Press agency said.

Wal-Mart currently runs 60 stores in more than 30 Chinese cities - employing about 30,000 staff - and plans to expand its operations in the country.

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