A Chinese first: orderly power transfer
Henceforth they are Chairman Huam and Vice-Chairmanm Deng, not Premier Hua and Vice-Premier Deng. The change in titles, accompanied by the elevation of Zhao Ziyang to the premiership, marks a bold experiment in communist history. For the first time, an orderly, peaceful transfer of power is being attempted while the previous incumbents are still hale and hearty.
No change of policy or party line is intended. Quite the contrary. Incoming Premier Zhao will carry on and strengthen the economic modernization policy pushed forward by Mr. Deng and acquiesced in by Mr. Hua.
Furthermore, both Mr. Hua and Mr. Deng retain their powerful positions in the Communist Party. Mr. Hua is chairman of the party and of its military commission. Mr. Deng is vice-chairman of both bodies.
Tall, imposing, almost Buddha-like in his moon-faced serenity, Mr. Hua made the long-awaited announcement of his resignation as premier in a lenghty speech to the National People's Congress Sept. 7. His audience knew this was Mr. Hua's last speech as premier, and applauded him warmly before, during, and after in a somewhat high-pitched Shansi accent.
Mr. Hua also announced the resignation of six vice-premiers besides Mr. Deng: Li Xiannian, Chen Yun, Xu Xiangqian, Wang Zhen, Wang Renzhong, and Chen Yonggui. Messrs. Li, Chen Yun, Xu, and Wang Zhen retain their Politburo seats. They, like Mr. Deng, are retiring largely because of age and will continue to watch over the implementation of the modernization program.
Mr. Wang Renzhong has recently shifted from agriculture, a government post, to propaganda, a party post. He resigns as vice-premier on the principle that major party and government posts should be separate.
Only Chen Yonggui resigns under a cloud. He is an illiterate peasant, who benefited from the Cultural Revolution to win a seat on the Politburo and a vice-premiership. He is likely to be dropped from his Politburo position at the next party congress, if not before.
The National People's Congress, China's legislature, will vote on these proposed changes Sept. 10. The result, however, is a foregone conclusion. Mr. Hua's speech touched on all the major themes of communist policy in China during the past 30 years, from population control to nationality policy. One characteristic of those moderate reformism to ultraleftism, in cycles of five, six, or ten years.
The present goal, repeatedly stressed by Mr. Hua in his speech, is economic modernization, a more abundant life for China's billion people by the end of the 20th century.This requires continuity of policy over a long period.
But newspapers in Peking and the provinces have been full of stories of the persistence of what they call ultraleftist opposition to the policies associated first with Mr. Deng and now with his proteges Messrs. Zhao and Wan. Remnants of the "gang of four," headed by the late Chairman Mao's widow Jiang Qing, are accused of resisting economic reform.
The "gang of four" held nearly absolute power for the ten chaotic years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which they used for their own ends. Their long-delayed trial is expected to begin soon, possibly during September.
The next four to five years, therefore, will be a crucial period for China. This is the time, observers here believe, the new team headed by Mr. Zhao will need in order to solidfy its position and power. Vice-Chairman Deng's strong backing from within the party will be essential.
As for Chairman Hua, despite his warm reception at the Sept. 7 session, he remains an enigmatic figure. He was chosen premier in January 1976 after Premier Chou En-lai's passing, at the time when the "gang of four" was still in power and with at least their tacit approval. He was catapulted to the chairmanship of the Communist Party as well following Mao's death in September that year.
The justification for the sudden promotion was Mao's famous saying, "With you in charge, I am at ease." This kind of succession by the choice of a single individual is now widely criticized within the party and among the citizenry.