China's new government leadership headed by Premier Zhao Ziyang is being unveiled in stages, reflecting both a strong desire for rejuvenation and the obstacles that still bestrew the way.
The focus of changes announced at the closing session of the National People's Congress Sept. 10 was the appointment of deputy chief of staff Zhang Aiping as vice-premier in charge of military affairs.
General Zhang is expected to be named defense minister as well. Two other new vice-premiers are Foreign Minister Huang Hua and Yang Jingren, minister in charge of the state Nationalities Affairs commission.
Mr. Huang, foreign minister since December 1976, is being rewarded for his formidable diplomatic skills. And foreign affairs itself is regaining the prestige it enjoyed int he days when Premier Chou Enlai himself doubled as foreign minister, or when Chen Yi was both deputy premier and foreign minister.
Mr. Yang, vice-premier in charge of implementing policy toward minority nationalities, is a Chinese Muslim with the given name of Ibrahim. The upgrading of his position shows the leadership's attempt to reassure minorities that the more liberal policies being applied to monitority areas such as Tibet, Sinkiang, and Inner Mongolia, are here to stay.
Messrs. Yang, Zhang, and Hua sat side by side in a row reserved for the premier and his deputies on the stage of the cavernous hall where the National People's Congress held its ten-day session. In the position of honor, where until the day before ex-Premier Hua Guofeng had sat, along with exvice-Premier Deng Xiaoping, Li Xiannian, and other veterans, Premier Zhao chatted animatedly with the new executive vice-premier, Wan Li. Acorrs the aisle sat retired Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping and his colleagues, including retired Premier Hua.
Reshuffles at the ministerial level are expected to be announced shortly. As with changes att he vice-premier level, they will reflect a compromise between Mr. Zhao's desire to select a fresh team of vigorous workers in the prime of their life and the continuing gerontocratic realities of a China whose leaders have aged along with their revolution.
Mr. Yang Jingren is 75, is other words, no younger than retired Vice-Premier Deng. General Zhang is 71. Only Mr. Huang is in his mid-60s, are the most of the members of the powerful Communist Party Secretariat.
While a number of elderly vice-chairman of the legislature's standing committee have resigned. The chairman, octogenarian Marshal Ye Jianying, remains. No one, apparently, has been able to budge him from a determination to remain at the legislature's helm, though he must be eased into his special chair , propped with pillows, by two nurses.
General Zhang will be the first defense minister not to be a marshal. Before ranks in the People's Liberation Army were abolished, he was a lieutenant general. A veteran of the Long March, he seems to be close to retired vice-Premier Deng and to the late Marshal Peng Dehuai, who lost his defense ministership after openly criticizing Mao Tse-tung in the late 1950s.
General Zhang has been deputy chief of staff in charge of military science and technology. He helped to entertain US Defense Secretary Harold Brown in Peking in January. He is host to a 22-man defense department delegation headed by Undersecretary William Perry. Mr. Perry and his team are continuing the talks on technology transfers.