A scandal involving Politburo member Chen Yonggui could indirectly touch Communist Party Chairman Hua Guofeng, diplomatic analysts here believe. Mr. Chen was once the model peasant who became famous in the 1960s as leader of the Dazhai (then romanized as Tachai) production brigade.
By studying the works of Mao Tse-tung and making use of the revolutionary enthusiasm these generated, it was claimed that Mr. Chen and his production brigade transformed a poor, backward mountain community into a highly productive agricultural enterprise.
Mr. Chen became one of the heroes of the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966, and he traveled the country promoting Chairman Mao's slogan, "In agriculture, learn from Dazhai." Hua Guofeng was one of the enthusiastic supporters of that slogan.
In 1973, after serving as party secretary of Xiyang County, Mr. Chen became a member of the party's top body, the Politburo, and in 1975, a vice-premier.
However, Mr. Chen's star waned after the downfall of Chairman Mao's widow, Jiang Qing, and her "gang of four" in October 1976.
But he survived the purge of the "Little gang of four" -- remaining opponents of Mr. Deng in the Politburo -- at the fifth plenum of the Party Central Committee in February this year. Then in July a series of articles in the Shanxi Daily, also carried by the People's Daily, charged that Xiyang County agricultural production figures had been consistently falsified and that the Dazhai model was, in fact, a fraud.
A more recent series of damaging articles charges that the "former principal responsible person for Xiyang County Party committee" -- clearly Mr. Chen -- had been guilty of feudalism, nepotism, persecution of individuals, and protection of criminal acts by relatives.
Readers, however, must be asking why it has taken so long to expose a man who at best is a fraud and who at worst may be accused of murder -- 141 persons are said to have died "unnatural deaths" in Xiyang County during the 10 chaotic years of the Cultural Revolution.
Did Mr. Chen himself have a powerful protector, and is the present Dengist leadership's struggle against "ultra-leftism" and "remnants of the gang of four" more arduous than would appear from the surface unity that prevails among the top leaders?
Do the Dengists now feel themselves strong enough to make a clean sweep of all the lements that have opposed them in the past?
The key to these questions lies with the enigmatic figure of party Chairman Hua Guofeng, his relationship to Mr. Deng, and Mr. Deng's proteges now running China.