How can Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping, the de facto leader of China today, assure that his policy of modernizing China by the end of the century will continue after his retirement or passing?
How can he overcome what some have called the crisis of confidence between the Chinese Communist Party and the people of China? How can he energize 38 million Communist Party members to become the engine pulling China up the arduous path of industrialization and all-round economic development?
The fifth plenary session of the party's Central Committee has provided a number of pointers as to how Mr. Deng and his associates propose to go about their challenging assignment.
First, dead wood is to be ruthlessly cut away. A start was made with the dismissals of four Politburo members hostile to or lukewarm about Mr. Deng's program. But many more changes are likely both at the center and at the provincial level -- aimed not so much at outright opposition as at foot-dragging and at securing, above all, rejuvenation.
To this end, the plenum or plenary session elected Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang , two of Mr. Deng's most promising and dynamic proteges, to membership on the Politburo standing committee, the party's highest decisionmaking organ.
To this end, it reestablished the secretariat to take care of day-to-day decisionmaking and appointed Hu Yaobang to head it as general secretary. To this end, the party constitution to be adopted by the 12th party congress meeting at the end of the year will have provisions designed to stop "the practice of being a lifelong cadre."
Chairman Hua Guofeng and Mr. Deng himself are likely to be covered by these provisions. One proposal apparently suggests that Politburo members be limited to three consecutive terms, unless a four-fifth's vote invites them to stay.
If the provision is adopted, both Mr. Hua and Mr. Deng would have one more term on the Politburo. Mr. Deng has been a Politburo member much longer than Mr. Hua, but not consecutively, since he has been twice purged.
Mr. Deng was purged at the start of the Cultural Revolution, Slandered as an "unrepentant capitalist roader." He was rehabilitated in 1973, but purged again three years later when he was thrown out of office by Chairman Mao. His second rehabilitation came in early 1977, after Chairman Mao's death.
It is likely that Mr. Zhao, newly promoted to the Politburo standing committee, will take a prominent role in administration and eventually may succeed Mr. Hua as premier. One observer likened the relationship of the secretariat ot the various government ministries to that between the White House staff and the departments of government in the United States.
It is, in fact, a bit more complicated, since some members of the secretariat hold positions in government as well as on the Politburo standing committee. Mr. Hu, for instance, is both a member of the Politburo standing committee and general secretary. Three other secretariat members -- Fang Yi, Yu Qiuli, and Peng Chong -- are also on the Politburo (although not on the standing committee). Six, including two Politburo members, Fang Yi and Yu Qiuli, are deputy premiers with well-defined specializations. Others undoubtedly will be given posts soon in government or in the Politburo, or both.
Yang Dezhi, for instance, is a member of the secretariat, deputy minister of defense, and chief of staff of the armed forces, a position recently relinquished by Mr. Deng. He is quite likely to get a seat on the Politburo soon.