China's new Constitution adds weight of law to Deng's reforms

China's revised Constitution, now being discussed by legislators here, will complete the legal framework for a communist state dedicated to ''socialist modernization.''

Salty Deng Xiaoping, China's top leader, is the chief architect of the new state structure. Mr. Deng envisions a stable, secure China, dedicated to raising living standards and open to wide-ranging contacts and cooperation with Western economies.

With the help of old allies like former Peking Mayor Peng Zhen, Mr. Deng has step by step enlarged the framework of law for the new China since his political line triumphed at the third plenum of the Communist Party's Central Committee in December 1978.

New civil and criminal codes, as well as tax laws and regulations on foreign investment, have been promulgated. These are all designed to do away with the arbitrariness that characterized the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when the ''gang of four'' headed by Mao Tse-tung's wife, Jiang Qing, held sway.

Mr. Deng, skilled at political infighting, is said to want to be remembered as having steered China from the chaos of the Cultural Revolution to a period of stability and economic modernization.

His policies have been resisted by remnants of the ''gang of four'' and by foot-dragging bureaucrats.

The new Constitution revives the position of chairman of the republic, in abeyance since the last chairman, Liu Shaoqi, was disgraced and imprisoned in 1969. The post was formally abolished under the 1975 Constitution.

Mr. Deng is reliably reported to have refused this largely ceremonial position. He previously refused the chairmanship of the Communist Party. (His protege, Hu Yao- bang, has been chairman since last June.)

The new Constitution also creates a Central Military Council to control the nation's armed forces. It is not certain what the relationship of this body will be to the Communist Party's Military Commission.

Mr. Deng is chairman of the party's Military Commission and thus controls the armed forces. Whether he will occupy an analogous position in the Central Military Council once the new Constitution is promulgated remains to be seen.

What seems clear is his intent to keep the party structure separate from the government structure and to do away with the present constitutional provision under which the party chairman commands the Army.

The new Constitution also contains articles enhancing the status of national minorities, increasing the powers of the National People's Congress, and instituting a kind of cabinet responsibility system under which the premier, vice-premiers, and state councillors will constitute the nation's top day-to-day administrative council.

The Constitution will be submitted to wide-ranging discussions throughout the nation before being finalized and passed by the full Congress later this year.

The Constitution is part of a far-reaching process of streamlining the government and replacing older cadres with younger ones. Premier Zhao Ziyang has announced the first ministries to be streamlined, and the congress's Standing Committee is expected to approve others soon. As elderly cadres retire, and incompetent, politically unreliable, or corrupt cadres are weeded out, many positions will open for younger officials. It is Mr. Deng's hope that these officials will form the core of the administration, guaranteeing the continuity of his policies after he retires. Deng has tentatively said he will step down in 1985, the year he turns 80.

A recent commentary in the People's Daily, stressed that loyalty to the party's present line must be the first criterion in selecting cadres for promotion.

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