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In era of reform, China's leader reminds his people they're still socialists

China's senior leader Deng Xiaoping has reminded the billion people under his government that China is a socialist country, aiming at communism. Because this is the goal of the government's economic reforms, he said, certain recent trends in economic behavior, or ``unhealthy tendencies,'' must be checked and the discipline and ideals of communism must be instilled in China's youth.

``We must let our people, including our children, know that we are persisting in socialism and communism and that all the policies we adopt are for the development of socialism and the realization of communism,'' Mr. Deng told a national conference on science and technology Thursday. The remarks were reported Saturday in a front-page article in the People's Daily, the Communist Party newspaper.

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``We cannot let our young people become captives of capitalist thinking. This is absolutely impermissible,'' Deng said.

His statement set out in broad terms his full support for the Communist Party's attempt in recent weeks to enforce social discipline and economic stability at a time when the state has begun to implement wide-ranging economic reforms that strengthen the role of market forces and decentralize economic decisionmaking.

The publicity given to such reforms has given the economy a more liberal atmosphere and has raised public expectations about future prosperity and even wealth. This climate, however, has led to some inflation that has squeezed the subsistence-level incomes of many urban Chinese. Lotteries, profiteering, and other practices distasteful to the country's conservative leadership have become widespread, according to the Chinese press.

The Communist Party itself has been afflicted with such practices -- and this concerns Chinese leaders the most, since the party is still trying to recover its credibility after the tumultuous Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Party documents and the official press recently have warned against petty abuses of power and involvement of full-time party members in moneymaking activities.

For the past two months, the official press has been attacking such ``unhealthy tendencies'' as excessive price increases and ``extravagant'' bonuses for workers, both of which are a cause of inflation, the commentators say. The press specifically has criticized free lunches for workers and gifts of clothing or of other commodities, since in effect these raise income levels and create demands for consumer goods which are not available. These bonuses in kind have been offered in lieu of cash bonuses partly as incentives to increase productivity.

``The reform we are carrying out now is a very complex affair. There are no ready-made experiences to follow,'' said a recent commentary in the People's Daily after criticizing such practices.

``For the sake of safety and success, we advance one step in accordance with the blueprint of the central authorities and then take a look, to `sound out the way,' '' the party newspaper said.

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Lotteries have been the most prominent ``unhealthy tendency.'' In a Lunar New Year's Eve television show Feb. 19, broadcast live to the nation from a packed stadium in Peking, 30 million ticket-holders took their chances on winning color TVs and other consumer goods. The show was criticized by viewers and in the press for its tawdry style.

Four days later the host performed a televised self-criticism before an audience of 200 million. He apologized for presenting a ``disgusting'' lottery program which was ``cheap fanfare.''

The People's Daily commented that the show reminded people of ``the days of pre-liberation Shanghai,'' and said the aim of lotteries was nothing but extortion. The China Youth Daily commented that such things run ``counter to our efforts to build socialist ethics.''

The trend toward lotteries and raffles by retail shops, banks, cinemas, magazines, as well as other profit-oriented activities, has been stemmed presumably by such criticism.

One important cause of rising consumer expectations, which Deng and others want to dampen, is the publicity given to rich peasants who have prospered under the agricultural reforms adopted six years ago. During the past year the country has been inspired by reports of 10,000-yuan ($3,500) peasant households which have earned their astonishing wealth from specializing in animal husbandry, vegetable farming, or some cottage industry.

``It is not possible `to get fat from eating one mouthful' and for everybody to wake up one morning as `10,000-yuan households,' '' the People's Daily wrote last month. ``Compared with several hundred million peasant households, the `10,000-yuan households' are only a few drops in the ocean and we are still far from reaching our goal.''

The party newspaper said that the Chinese people must work hard for several decades before there will be a large and general improvement in living standards.

In his statement last week, Deng Xiaoping said that though the government allowed a role for private economy and even allowed some corporations that were solely foreign-owned as well as joint ventures with foreign companies, socialist (state-owned) enterprises were the mainstay of the economy. If these policies lead to polarization rather than to common prosperity, then the policies will have failed, he said.

Deng also referred to his critics within the Chinese leadership: ``From a long-term point of view, the ultimate aim is to lead to communism. There are now people who worry that China might go capitalist. This worry is not without any reason. We must use facts, not empty words, to dispel their worries.''

He did not elaborate on who was doing the worrying, but it may well have included such notables as fellow members of the Politburo, economist Chen Yun and party theoretician Hu Qiaomu.

In a meeting with party and military leaders of Fujian Province a month ago, Mr. Hu denounced the desire for ``getting rich'' that he observed in a local enterprise, according to the Fujian Daily.

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