Peking cuts government red tape: will Communist Party do the same?

Prospects for the continuity of economic modernization policies associated with Vice-Chairman Deng Xiaoping have been strength-ened by the sweeping governmental reorganization announced here May 4.

The number of vice-premiers has been cut from 13 to 2, and of ministries and commissions from 52 to 41. Many veteran ministers have been retired, and a large number of younger ministers appointed.

The changes strengthen the positions of Mr. Deng's prinicipal associates: party Chairman Hu Yaobang and Premier Zhao Ziyang. They also create a momentum for rejuvenation that, it is hoped, will spread to the provincial and district level, shaking the bureaucracy loose from rigidity and inertia and releasing energies essential to the process of innovation and modernization.

Wan Li and Yao Yilin are the two vice-premiers who have survived the reorganization. Wan Li continues as Premier Zhao's principal deputy. Mr. Yao retains his chairmanship of the State Planning Commission. Mr. Wan has long been closely identified with Mr. Deng, while Mr. Yao is a disciple of Chen Yun, who probably enjoys the greatest prestige in China next to Mr. Deng himself.

Chen Yun has been continuously working in the economic field since the founding of the People's Republic, although for much of this time his emphasis on incentives and on practice rather than sloganeering kept him out of favor. Today Mr. Chen, like Mr. Deng, is a vice-chairman of the Communist Party, and his expertise and influence in economic affairs complements Mr. Deng's more general influence over the military and civilian apparatus of party and government.

Of the 11 vice-premiers removed, nine have been appointed to the newly created post of state councilor. Zhang Jingfu, newly appointed minister in charge of the State Economic Commission, has been made a state councilor as well.

The position of the state councilors remains to be clarified. Like the vice-premiers, they are entitled to act on Premier Zhao's behalf. But will they compose a kind of inner cabinet? Some state councilors concurrently hold important ministerial assignments -- Huang Hua as foreign minister, Geng Biao as defense minister, Mrs. Chen Muhua as minister of foreign economic relations and trade, Fang Yi as minister in charge of the Scientific and Technological Commission.

But others -- Yu Qiuli, Gu Mu, Kang Shien, Ji Pengfei -- have no ministerial responsibilities and seem to have been kept on as advisers or, possibly, troubleshooters. Most of the new ministers were vice-ministers.

Mrs. Zhang Chen, however, was promoted from bureau director to become minister of nuclear industry, the former second ministry of machine building. The youngest new minister, 50-year-old Yang Zhong, now minister of forestry, was deputy governor of Sichuan, where Mr. Zhao was provincial leader until being moved to Peking early in 1980.

Another subject requiring clarification is the relationship between party and government posts. One purpose of streamlining has been to separate party posts from government positions. The party is expected to set policy but not to be concerned with every detail of daily administration.

Party Chairman Hu holds no government position, though his immediate predecessor Hua Guofeng was premier. Today, however, some ministers are on the party's Politburo, others are on both the Politburo and the party Secretariat. The Politburo, of course, represents a constituency wider than that of the central government -- it includes regional military leaders, for instance, but no provincial party secretaries.

The relationship between party and government is so critical in a communist-run country such as China that the streamlining of government offices will not really be complete until there is a comparable streamlining and rejuvenation of the party's machinery.

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