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Zhao Celebrates New Position, Announces He Will Resign as Premier

November 2, 1987 GMT

BEIJING (AP) _ An assured and jovial Zhao Ziyang drank toasts with reporters Monday after being named Communist Party chief, and announced he would soon resign as premier.

Zhao and the four other members of the new Politburo Standing Committee, the highest party body, held the reception in the Great Hall of the People after their appointments were announced by the Central Committee.

It was the first time Communist Chinese leaders held such an informal meeting with foreign reporters.

Zhao also denied the leadership is divided into factions, blasted the United States for criticizing China’s actions in Tibet, wished the Soviet Union success in its economic reforms and plugged China’s budding fashion industry.

Zhao said he will step down as premier when the national legislature’s Standing Committee meets soon, but refused to reveal who will succeed him.

″I can tell you he is younger than I am,″ he said.

Zhao, 68, was appointed premier in 1980 and has been acting party chief since January. The premier runs the day-to-day operations of the government, while the party chief sets the direction of government policy.

Vice Premier Li Peng, 59, appointed Monday with Zhao to the Politburo Standing Committee, is widely expected to become the next premier.

Zhao, clearly enjoying himself as he worked the crowd like a politician, boasted that the smart Western-style suits he frequently wears are made in China.

″It is my hope you can send a dispatch saying all my suits are made in China and all of them are very pretty ... so as to promote the sale of Chinese garments in international markets,″ he said chuckling.

He wore a dark blue suit and a wine-red tie.

Zhao and Li was accompanied by the three other members of the new Politburo Standing Committee, also in Western suits: Hu Qili and vice premiers Qiao Shi and Yao Yilin.

Zhao told one reporter, ″You have been working harder than I,″ and thanked the journalists for their coverage of the party’s 13th national congress, which met from Oct. 25 through Sunday.

″It is necessary for China to know more about the world and for the world to know more about China,″ he said.

In keeping with the Chinese leadership’s policy of presenting a united front, Zhao denied there was a split between conservatives who oppose rapid change and those who favor shaking up the economy and bureaucracy, like himself and his mentor, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

″All those who base their analyses of China on this idea will make one mistake after another,″ he said.

″Different points of view ... will encourage democratization and ensure that we don’t make mistakes,″ he said.

In a report read at the congress’ opening session and approved Sunday, Zhao said China’s poverty justified Deng’s program of encouraging individual enterprise and retreating from central planning and collectivization.

The average annual income of Chinese has doubled since Deng introduced the reforms in 1978.

Deng, 83, stepped down in triumph Sunday from the party’s top leadership after forcing out aging officials who opposed the pace of his reforms.

In wide-ranging comments at the reception, Zhao called ″beyond comprehension″ statements by U.S. legislators criticizing China’s crackdown on independence demonstrations in Tibet in September and October.

″Why do some people in the U.S. Congress ... support the restoration of serfdom in Tibet? Does serfdom accord with human rights?″ he asked. China claims that before it sent troops into Tibet in 1950, the Himalayan region’s Buddhist leaders kept people in a state of bondage.

Zhao said there is freedom of dissent in China, ″but not absolute freedom.″

″No country in the world has absolute freedom. For example when you go abroad you have to have a passport, so you don’t have absolute freeom either,″ he said.

Deng said China attaches great importance to the reforms espoused by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

The reforms are similar, but not as far-reaching, as those that have dominated Chinese political and economic life for the past 10 years.