Out with the old, in with the new in China. Deng overhauls party leadership to perpetuate his reforms
Many revolutions in history are said to have ``eaten their young.'' China's revolution has just done the opposite. It is eating its veterans to make way for the young. The aim: perpetuation of Deng Xiaoping's modernization and ``open door'' programs into the next two generations of leaders.Skip to next paragraph
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In a long-prepared move, 131 members of the Communist Party old guard -- most of them veterans of Mao Tse-tung's revolutionary war of the 1930s and '40s -- resigned from their positions on five ruling bodies of the party Monday. They did so to make way for younger, better-educated technocrats. A resignation letter from those leaving the party Central Committee stated bluntly that abolishing ``de facto lifelong tenure'' and ``rejuvenation'' were the main purposes of the mass departure.
Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping thus followed through on his blueprint to put in place not only the generation of leaders who will succeed him, but the generation he hopes will succeed them.
In the process he is also altering the Chinese ruling party and the leadership that administers the country. Self-consciously egalitarian, relatively uneducated old revolutionaries are being replaced by younger, college-educated officials with a world outlook and a penchant for technological solutions and pragmatic economic programs.
Despite this change, the struggle continues over entrepreneurship, decentralized management control, profitmaking, resource allocation, investment, stock issuance, who goes to college, and a host of other issues unknown in most communist countries.
In the view of many China hands, the youth revolution is not a monolithic shift. Many young students remain reluctant to join the party. Most of the bright college graduates who do join support Mr. Deng's modernization program vigorously.
But younger leaders vary widely in their aims from province to province. Some remain loyal to the old, inefficient, but job-secure collectivist patterns, while others favor the riskier but ultimately more wealth-producing free-market shift that has been underway for the last six years.
This week's move caps what sinologist Merle Goldman calls a ``Chinese party housecleaning that [Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev will find hard to match as he plans for his own party congress next February.''
During the past six months the base of the Chinese party pyramid has been overhauled. Almost every provincial governor and regional party secretary has been replaced. Now the top of the pyramid is being put into the hands of new technocrats, mostly in their fifties.
``Deng has put his people in place from the ground up,'' Professor Goldman said in an interview last week at Harvard's Fairbank Center for East Asian Research.
Of the 131 resignations announced this week the key ones are those of 10 members of the 24-member Politburo. One of these, Marshal Ye Jianying, was also a member of the powerful six-person standing committee of the Politburo.
On Wednesday, at an unusual special conference of 1,000 party leaders, replacements for the 10 resigning Politburo members, most of them expected to be younger, will be announced. They are likely to include 56-year-old Hu Qili, the rising star whom many specialists think will eventually replace party General Secretary Hu Yaobang; 57-year-old Li Peng, the indefatigable Soviet-trained engineeer who is vice premier and heir-apparent to the premiership; and 56-year-old Tian Jiyun, the financial wizard