Zhao Made Party Chief, Signaling Victory Of Reforms
BEIJING (AP) _ Younger, reform-minded pragmatists took the helm of China’s government Monday in a major change that signaled a victory for Deng Xiaoping’s ambitious political and economic program.
Leading the new line-up was Premier Zhao Ziyang, Deng’s 68-year-old protege, who was appointed head of the Communist Party.
The rise to power of Deng’s supporters marked the successful conclusion of his plan to replace an aging party leadership with new officials willing to continue his market-oriented reforms and open-door policy.
Deng, 83, stepped down from three top party posts Sunday at the conclusion of the 13th Communist Party Congress, but he was reappointed chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, ensuring that he will play a major role in China’s political future.
In retiring from the posts, Deng forced leading conservatives, most notably President Li Xiannian and economist Chun Yun, to follow suit. Li and Chen, both 82, had opposed the pace of Deng’s reforms.
The way is now open for Deng and his proteges to continue decentralizing the economy and further open the nation to the West.
″He stands taller and sees farther than us,″ the People’s Daily said Monday of the 4-foot-11-inch Deng.
″He is a great man,″ the paper said of the French-educated revolutionary, who has been purged three times in Communist China’s 38-year history.
The major surprise of the congress was the political survival of Hu Yaobang, the former party chief who lost his post after student demonstrations for democracy last December.
Hu, a liberal by Chinese standards, will not return to the Politburo’s Standing Committee, the core decision-making group in the party. But he retained his seat on the Central Committee and on the Politburo itself.
It had been expected that Hu would be pushed from the Politburo.
Zhao, 68, further solidified his leadership position by being named vice chairman of the military commission. The appointment is significant because Zhao, whose power base lies in government ministries, has sought to expand his influence into the military.
Zhao said Monday he would soon step down as premier but refused to disclose his successor.
The acting party chief since January, Zhao was the only member of the five- person Politburo Standing Committee to be re-elected Monday by the 175- member Central Committee, which governs the party.
The average age of the Standing Committee dropped from 77 to 63 with the appointment of the new members - vice premiers Li Peng, Qiao Shi and Yao Yilin, and party Secretariat member Hu Qili.
Li Peng, a 59-year-old Soviet-educated engineer, is the only one who warrants the title of conservative - although he denies it. He is said to favor central planning and large capital projects.
Li is a leading candidate to replace Zhao as premier.
Among the new Standing Committee members, Zhao and Hu Qili, 58, are the most vocal supporters of Deng’s reforms. Qiao Shi, 62, has strong ties to China’s police and state security departments, while Yao Yilin, 70, is a veteran government minister and Communist Party bureaucrat.
The vitality of the new leadership was evident Monday when the five Standing Committee members, all in Western-style suits instead of Mao jackets, joined foreign and Chinese reporters at a reception in the Great Hall of the People.
In an unprecedented display of ″kaifang,″ or openness, Zhao spent nearly an hour joking with reporters and responding to their questions, clinking glasses in good-natured toasts.
Zhao chided reporters for categorizing China’s leaders as reformers and conservatives, saying if there were such factions they ″already have merged into one.″
Li dismissed as ″a misunderstanding″ reports he is a conservative and said he helped draft Zhao’s keynote speech to the party congress.
The speech praised Deng’s reforms, which have given more responsibility to farmers and allowed local managers more freedom to run their businesses.
Zhao made his name in Sichuan province by backing market-oriented agricultural reforms. As premier he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of government. As party chief, he will control the direction of the government’s policies but will be removed from everyday operations.
The new 17-member Politburo is dominated by Deng reformers. They include vice premiers Wan Li and Tian Jiyun and Foreign Minister Wu Xueqian. Among the new faces are Li Ruihuan, the innovative mayor of Tianjin, and Li Tieying, head of the Economic Restructuring Commission.