China congress set to increase pace of market reforms

September 23, 1992|By Robert Benjamin | Robert Benjamin,Beijing Bureau

BEIJING -- The Chinese Communist Party appears ready to formally enshrine patriarch Deng Xiaoping's full-speed-ahead approach to economic reform as China's direction for the next five years.

Capping months of speculation, the state-run Xinhua news service yesterday announced that the 14th national party congress will open Oct. 12 and will "take as its guide" Mr. Deng's dramatic drive this year for stepping up China's market-style economic reforms.

Xinhua said that the key meeting, held every five years, will mobilize the Chinese people "to further emancipate their minds and seize the opportune moment to accelerate the pace of reform, opening to the outside world and modernization."

Earlier reports have indicated that Mr. Deng has had success in stacking the lineup of 1,991 delegates to the party congress with younger technocrats, who are more likely to endorse his reforms.

But questions remained whether the 88-year-old Mr. Deng still could command enough clout within the party to fend off more traditional socialists who oppose the rapid pace of the changes.

While younger economic reformers may be given promotions and greater powers, party chief Jiang Zemin and Premier Li Peng appear to have retained their positions for now. Both have taken more conservative stances than Mr. Deng.

The behind-the-scenes jockeying between party reformists and ideologues in advance of the congress is underscored by yesterday's rather late announcement of the meeting's opening in less than three weeks. The start of the last party congress, in 1987, was formally announced much longer in advance.

The 1987 congress also strongly endorsed increasing China's economic reforms. But by 1988 that led to an overheated economy, runaway inflation and rampant corruption, all of which set the stage for the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest.

With industrial production now growing at a 20 percent higher rate than last year, fears are again rising that China is on the verge of repeating the same sort of boom-bust cycle.

If another period of economic and political retrenchment is in the offing, it appears that this most likely would not stem from Mr. Deng losing control of the party, but from China's leadership losing control of its rapidly expanding economy.

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