China warns corrupt, inept officials of possible purge

Amid reports that thousands of Chinese party and government officials may soon be fired or transferred, China has issued a notable public explanation of the reasons behind the anticipated shakeup.

''Whether rule by the communist party goes bad (as meat goes bad) or collapses is no longer a question of abstract theory, but a real danger,'' writes Zhang Yun, a deputy secretary of the party's Central Commission for Inspecting Discipline.

These arresting words are in the lead article of the latest Red Flag, the Chinese Communist Party's theoretical journal. Certainly Mrs. Zhang, who is a veteran revolutionary and a founding member of the Women's Federation, does not expect communist rule in China to collapse tomorrow.

But her entire 13-page article is a warning to party members, and especially to cadres, that unless bureaucratism, indiscipline, corruption, and high living are rooted out, the Chinese Communist Party will be in deep trouble. She quotes with approbation a statement of another veteran revolutionary, party Vice-Chairman Chen Yun: ''The style (or way of life) of a party in power is a matter of life and death for that party.''

Nowhere does Mrs. Zhang mention Poland in her article. But the Polish example is very much on the minds of the party leadership, which is seeking to restore the party's prestige after the ten-year turmoil of the Cultural Revolution and the erosion of revolutionary idealism during the three decades it has been in power. Among old revolutionaries like Chen Yun, or Deng Yingchao (widow of Chou Enlai), or Mrs. Zhang herself, the sense of crisis is strong.

Mrs. Zhang quotes a Commission report issued last spring: ''Some veteran party members, who had stood through the severe test of the revolutionary wars and the 'white terror', and some advanced people who joined the party after the revolutionary victory, have changed drastically since becoming officials.

''They enjoy flattery and reject criticism. Self-satisfied and dizzy with success, gradually they cease to care about the masses' hardships and are covered with bureaucratic dust, become arrogant, lazy, conservative, seeking enjoyment and special privileges. A few of them, failing to resist the sugar-coated bullets of feudalist thinking and rotten capitalist ideas, change from being servants of the people into lords sitting pompously on the people's backs. . .

''At the same time, there are many impurely-motivated people who try by all sorts of ways and means to worm their way into the party in order to win benefits and power, since there is no danger or any severe tests involved in joining a party that is already in power.''

The Central Commission for Inspecting Discipline was set up after the fall of the ''gang of four'' to try to correct abuses and restore morality. But despite its prestige, the Commission's work has been obstructed by local officials. Mrs. Zhang's article, is seen as one sign that under the leadership of Vice-Chairman Deng Xiaoping, the party chiefs intend to get tough on corruption, inefficiency, and obstructionism.

Mrs. Zhang's article also calls for '' 'rectification' of leading groups at various levels.'' Rectification means correcting, overhauling, and strengthening an organization. In this process, Mrs. Zhang says, remnant followers of Lin Biao and the ''gang of four'' (who ruled China during the Cultural Revolution), as well as those with ''severely factional thinking, and beaters, smashers, and looters'' should be ''resolutely removed.''

This is taken to mean that the party leadership is determined to root out all those who have continued to oppose and its economic reform policies, even those in high places.

This suggests that rectification will extend into the leading ranks at provincial levels as well as in central ministry and party offices and that executives will be held accountable for the acts of their subordinates.

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