China reform: full steam ahead. Deng loyalists sweep top posts and vow to speed up change
A new generation of reformist leaders took command of China's Communist Party Monday, pledging to accelerate the economic reforms and open-door policy launched nine years ago by Chinese ruler Deng Xiaoping. Younger leaders united in their loyalty to Mr. Deng made virtually a clean sweep of the party's most powerful posts, forming the first radically pro-reform leadership in China's communist history.
The new, technocratic leadership promised to expand the role of market forces in China's economy while aggressively streamlining overgrown state and party bureaucracies - advancing policies resisted by prominent conservatives who relinquished top posts Sunday.
The unprecedentedly smooth transfer of power ``guarantees that our line can be carried on on a long-term and stable basis,'' said Premier Zhao Ziyang, the newly elected party general secretary and a staunch reformer.
The new leadership will ``keep the momentum of ... opening up to the outside world, reform and modernization begun in the last nine years,'' a beaming Mr. Zhao told a reception for journalists hours after being chosen to lead the 46 million-member party.
Zhao, Mr. Deng's prot'eg'e, was elected by the party's new 348-member Central Committee, which emerged from a national party congress that ended Sunday. The Central Committee also elected its three most powerful bodies - the Politburo, Standing Committee, and the Secretariat.
With few exceptions, the members of the new 18-man Politburo and five-man Secretariat epitomize the younger, highly trained ``experts'' groomed by Deng to succeed the politically fervent ``reds'' recruited to the party under Mao Tse-tung's fanatical rule.
Zhao, an urbane economic technocrat given to dressing in Western suits, has directed the most rapid growth of China's economy this century during his tenure as premier since 1980. As party secretary of Sichuan, China's most populous province, with 100 million people, Zhao successfully pioneered free-market agricultural reforms that raised production dramatically and were later carried out nationwide.
Joining Zhao on the elite five-member Politburo Standing Committee are four experienced leaders whose diverse talents and political views lend the body balance and promote the collective rule envisioned by Deng. (See profiles, above.)
The average age of the new Standing Committee members is 63 - 13 years lower than that of the previous members, who include:
Hu Qili, a graduate of the prestigious Peking University and active proponent of reform who handles propaganda and ideological issues. Mr. Hu is also Zhao's right hand man on the five-member Secretariat, the working body of the Politburo.
Li Peng, a Soviet-trained engineer and energy specialist, and Qiao Shi, an expert on legal and security affairs. Both support reform, although their backgrounds suggest more caution.
Mr. Qiao was also named to head the powerful 69-member party discipline inspection commission, which is charged with combating corruption in party ranks.
Mr. Li strongly denied as ``a total misunderstanding'' reports in the Western press that his education in Moscow from 1948 to 1955 made him pro-Soviet or an advocate Soviet-style central planning.
``Some people just like to attach labels to others,'' Li told journalists at the reception, stressing that he would support the party's reformist line.
The most conservative member of the new Standing Committee is Yao Yilin, head of China's State Planning Commission. He is believed to favor more government regulation of the economy than his colleagues.
Zhao conceded that differences of view exist among the members of the new Standing Committee, but said they would contribute to collective rule.
``It is my opinion that a few different views among our leaders, even among us, the five Standing Committee members of the Politburo, may help make the process of decision-making more democratic and scientific,'' Zhao said. ``It is an important guarantee for use to avoid one-sidedness and to make fewer mistakes,'' he added.
Deng, whose retirement from the Standing Committee was a clear vote of confidence in the stability and cohesion of the younger leadership, lauded his successors. ``They will do better than I,'' the official New China News Agency quoted the 83-year-old Deng as telling a Japanese visitor.
Deng, however, felt it necessary to retain direct control over China's 3 million-strong People's Liberation Army. Deng remained in his post as head of the party's influential Military Affairs Commission, while having Zhao named first vice-chairman.
Moreover, as the architect of the reforms and China's most revered revolutionary veteran, Deng will retain ultimate decisionmaking power on major issues.
``I have a high respect for comrade Deng Xiaoping,'' Zhao told reporters. ``I will often ask his advice so that I will be able to do things better,'' he said in a clear statement of deference to his political mentor.
Zhao said that he planned to resign from his post of premier ``soon'' and that he would nominate a successor, although he declined to reveal who it will be.