China tilts away from hard-liners Party installs leading reformers

October 19, 1992|By Robert Benjamin | Robert Benjamin,Beijing Bureau

BEIJING -- The Chinese Communist Party installed new top leadership today that tilts considerably toward aggressive economic reformers who back patriarch Deng Xiaoping's push for rapidly liberalizing China's economy.

Announced this morning, the party Politburo's new seven-member Standing Committee -- China's ultimate decision-making body -- includes three newcomers, all Deng loyalists.

The rising reformers are: Vice Premier Zhu Rongji, who already is in charge of restructuring China's economy; General Liu Huaqing, the first military representative on the powerful Standing Committee since the late 1970s; and Hu Jintao, the party secretary for Tibet.

The Politburo was expanded from 14 to 20 seats, including 14 newly elected members, many from China's provinces rather than central government or party bodies -- moves again backing Mr. Deng's economic reform drive.

The sweeping leadership changes following the end of the party's national congress yesterday also foreshadow the anticipated fall from power of three hard-line party ideologues and the possible retirements of several top government leaders by next spring.

Taken as a whole, the personnel reshuffle affirms the main thrust of the week-long congress, a heavily orchestrated celebration of Mr. Deng's drive for freeing up China's economy while maintaining tight political control.

However, party boss Jiang Zemin and Premier Li Peng, both nTC considered to be reluctant reformers, retained their posts on the Standing Committee.

Moreover, the leadership shifts do not represent a complete purge of more traditional Marxists within the party, many of whom for now have had to sign on to Mr. Deng's intense campaign this year for accelerating the role of market forces in China's once centrally planned economy.

The new leadership line-up emerged after the congress' approval yesterday of 189 full members and 130 alternate

members to the party's Central Committee, a policy-making body from which all top party positions are filled.

Almost half the membership of the Central Committee was replaced.

Dropped from the Central Committee were eight previous members of the Politburo. Among them were China's President Yang Shangkun, parliament head Wan Li and Defense Minister Qin Jiwei.

President Yang and Mr. Wan are expected to retain their government posts for now but retire by next spring.

The party's hard-line wing suffered a clear setback with the dropping from the Central Committee of three notable Marxist ideologues, acting Culture Minister He Jingzhi, party propaganda chief Wang Renzhi and Gao Di, head of People's Daily, the party newspaper.

All three men are among "leftists," or more traditional socialists, who have opposed Mr. Deng's pragmatic thrust to achieve rapid economic development by allowing market forces to hold sway here.

They long have been expected to lose power in the face of Mr. Deng's mounting attacks on "leftism" within the party.

In announcing that 46.7 percent of the new Central Committee are new members, China's official news service stressed that their average age of 56.3 years is "evidence that the Communist Party of China is full of vigor and vitality and has a train of successors."

But upon its election in 1987, the average age of the last Central Committee was slightly younger -- even though only about a third of its members were new.

The party, however, did vote yesterday to abolish its Central Advisory Commission, a 10-year-old body set up to give a voice in party affairs to scores of retired, old-guard revolutionaries.

In another vote, the party also decided to amend its constitution to include mention of Mr. Deng's theory of "building socialism with Chinese characteristics."

This last move caps a week when the party's vast propaganda machine went into overdrive to extol Mr. Deng's moves toward capitalist-style economic reforms.

The 88-year-old Mr. Deng, ailing and retired from all positions except the honorary chairmanship of the China Bridge Association, did not put in an appearance at the party congress as some had expected.

Nevertheless, his status within the party was raised during the congress to virtually equal that of the late Mao Tse-tung, China's deified founding father.

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