Deng's liberal push is news to Beijing Official media finally report details of trip

March 31, 1992|By Robert Benjamin | Robert Benjamin,Beijing Bureau

BEIJING -- Two months ago, China's senior leader, Deng Xiaoping, kicked off a public drive for greater economic reform with a trip to Guangdong province in the south. Yesterday, news of his trip finally made it into major state-controlled media here.

The reports by China's official news agency, its national television news and two Beijing-based newspapers carried no new information. But their appearance suggests Mr. Deng has at least partly triumphed over conservative opponents who control Beijing's propaganda mill.

The Chinese Communist Party's top body, the Politburo, already has publicly endorsed the outlines of Mr. Deng's new campaign for economic liberalization, including his call for vigilance against socialist ideologues.

But as a measure of the lingering strength of conservative resistance here, only newspapers in Guangdong and a few other regions had run details of Mr. Deng's calls for accelerated economic liberalization during his trip south.

Over the last month his conservative opponents also tried to block dissemination of an internal document outlining his new directives to party cadres.

Yesterday's reports essentially mirror those internal directives, save for omitting Mr. Deng's references to guarding against dogmatic socialism. But it was the first time these details have been made widely available to a broad Chinese audience.

The reports stressed that China must increase its economic reforms or face, in Mr. Deng's words, "the road to ruin." He was quoted as endorsing bold moves toward expanding stock-holding schemes, securities markets and foreign-funded enterprises -- even at the risk of employing methods previously labeled as exclusively capitalist.

At 87 years old and despite rumored prostate cancer, Mr. Deng still is apparently strong enough to wage perhaps his last political campaign. He is being aided by ailments that are believed to have weakened several of his leading conservative opponents, most notably economist Chen Yun, who has not been seen in public since 1989.

But Mr. Deng's battles are not over. The party's newspaper, the People's Daily, did not run a report on his Guangdong trip yesterday. Its director, Gao Di, is believed to be among key conservative propagandists whose jobs are in danger.

Mr. Deng's new campaign has put other conservatives, including Premier Li Peng, on the defensive during the annual meeting of China's legislature.

The legislature's session, which ends Friday, has largely turned into a show of support for Mr. Deng's drive, a consensus that he is expected to now try to strengthen in the run-up to a party congress this fall.

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