Deng spars with leading critic over Chinese reform program

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The differences between China's master reformer Deng Xiaoping and veteran economist Chen Yun were dramatically apparent yesterday in their speeches at the closing session of a special Chinese Communist Party conference. While Mr. Deng urged that the current reforms be kept on course, Mr. Chen aimed criticism directly at specific points in reforms Deng has initiated over the past seven years. Chen leads a faction of veteran leaders, many of whom served under Mao Tse-tung, who have been critical of Deng Xiaoping's policies.

China has begun to ``set things right'' and to ``build socialism with Chinese characteristics,'' Deng told 936 senior party officials from throughout the country.

In outlining problems facing the party's next generation of leaders, China's paramount leader took into account the concerns of his critics.

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``The general orientation and principles [of China's economic reform program] are already established, but we still have to work out specific rules and regulations by trial and error,'' Deng said, according to printed translations of the speech made available Monday afternoon.

The next five years will be ``very important'' in completing the reforms and in setting the pace for balanced development, he added. These are the years (1986-1990) covered in the seventh five-year plan now being written. An outline of the plan was approved by the party conference Sunday.

Deng also affirmed China's commitment to its own brand of socialism, though he seemed less than passionate in expressing the hope that leading party officials ``will still find some time in their busy schedules to study so as to become well-versed in basic Marxist theory. . . .'' He added that Marxist theory ``will be further developed'' if it is studied in view of China's new situation.

In pithy remarks, which contained almost none of the verbal fluff typical on such occasions, veteran leader Chen affirmed his support for an ``orderly succession'' for party officials by ``promoting young and middle-aged people to leading posts by the tens of thousands.''

But then he warned about problems the party faces, directly criticizing specific issues raised by Deng's reform program. Beginning with agriculture, he said bluntly, ``We must continue to pay attention to grain production.''

Under Deng's policies and after several years of surplus production, large numbers of peasants have been abandoning grain production for crops that could be sold readily on the free market. They have also been getting involved in rural industries for higher profits than farming can offer.

Chen warned that the line of ``no prosperity without engaging in industry'' is heard much louder than that of ``no economic stability without agricultural development.''

``Feeding and clothing a billion people constitutes one of China's major political as well as economic challeges, for grain shortages will lead to social disorder,'' he said.

Chen is widely respected for his views on economic policy, and he cautioned party leaders not to become infatuated with market economics or to confuse a planned economy under socialism with a market-oriented economy. Deng's policies have introduced an important role for free market forces in the national economy.

``Market regulation involves no planning, blindly allowing supply and demand to determine production,'' Chen said. He also urged party officials to strengthen political education as a defense against corruption and ``putting money above all else,'' problems which Deng mentioned in his own speech, though not so sharply.

The reproving tone of Chen's remarks contrasted with Deng's exhortations to continue on the road he established. Deng's remarks carried long passages urging more political and social discipline and upholding the dominance of the party, though observers speculate he was trying to blunt Chen's and others' criticisms in advance. Both Deng and Chen are members of the five-member Standing Comittee of the Politburo.

The week-long special conference was called to bring into the party's Central Committee new, younger members and to approve draft proposals for China's seventh five-year plan.

At a press conference afterwards, conference spokesman and Minster of Culture Zhu Muzhi offered an explanation for why Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun, and a few other elderly veterans had not yet resigned their posts.

``We still need a number of veteran comrades who enjoy high prestige both at home and abroad, and we need them to remain as leaders in the party to serve the role of steering the course,'' Mr. Zhu said.

Zhu added that of the 64 new members added to the Central Committee, some 13 were from the military. Western diplomats said this was about half the number of military members that resigned last week.

At today's session of the Central Committee, officially known as the fifth plenum of the 12th session, new members will be elected to fill some 10 seats in the party's 24-member Politburo.

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