Deep in China's strategic heartland - in a province so little known that some Chinese confuse it with neighboring Yunnan and Guanxi Provinces - the politics of Peking are distant thunder. Here in Guizhou Province, the Communist Party's propaganda drive against ``bourgeois liberalization'' would appear to be irrelevant to the daily lives of its 30 million people.
With income levels well below the national average, people in Guizhou are struggling more for their share of China's new-found prosperity than to maintain ideological purity. And because fewer than 1,000 foreigners visited Guizhou last year, there is little threat of antisocialist ideas spreading from that source.
``I am very interested in this subject,'' a provincial official commented with earnest candor. ``Fighting `bourgeois liberalization' doesn't mean you can't live a comfortable life or enjoy Western culture, but it means you must support the Communist Party and socialism.''
This summary of the party's political line appeared practical and to the point. As with other Guizhou residents, the official appeared untroubled by the confusion common in Peking and Shanghai over how to define ``bourgeois liberalization.'' Clearly, whatever it is, there is little of it in Guizhou.
Faced with the challenge of developing this region, rich in resources but geographically remote, the priorities of Guizhou's government have been down to earth. The province's population, which has tripled in less than 50 years, strains food production and large amounts of grain must be imported from other parts of China. Industry, much of which was moved here in the early 1970s from eastern China as a protection in case of war, suffers from serious logistical and manpower problems.
To meet such challenges in recent years, Guizhou has called upon from some of the most progressive and flexible leadership the party could muster. A pragmatic approach to party work was the hallmark of Zhu Houze, who served in top party posts in Guizhou and later became China's powerful propaganda chief in 1985. Mr. Zhu was hand picked for the central government post by now-ousted General Secretary Hu Yaobang. According to local residents, Zhu rose quickly because he was ``very open.''
Previously unknown in Peking, Zhu turned out to be well liked in some circles for his open-minded, some say liberal, views. But he was dismissed from his post in Peking last winter when some veteran party leaders reasserted their power and regained control of the party's propaganda organs. Zhu is now assigned to a research institute in Peking, but he is still popular in Guizhou.
``Personally, I think Zhu Houze did much to break down the obstacles in Guizhou and to open it to the outside world,'' said Zhang Miao Gu, editor of the Guizhou Daily, the party's leading newspaper in the province.
The editor of the Zunyi News, located in the province's second-largest city, agreed. ``If the party decided to send him back to Guizhou, we'd welcome him,'' said Lei Ming Zhong.
There have been few casualties here in the recent propaganda warfare. The editors said that here, unlike in neighboring Guanxi, no magazines or newspapers have been suspended or closed down as a result of the party's strict new guidelines for the press. One small-town newspaper, however, was criticized for reprinting an article that originally appeared in the Shenzhen Youth News last year. The article reportedly called for senior leader Deng Xiaoping to resign.
The liberal Shenzhen Youth News, closed down several months ago, was blamed as a leading source of antisocialist, antiparty influence in the region since it had subscribers here.
Zunyi News editor Lei said his newspaper had also been influenced by the ideas of expelled party member and nationally known journalist Liu Binyan. But Mr. Lei and others said that no one had been criticized personally and no one had had to write a self-criticism.
Mr. Zhang of the Guizhou Daily said that, since Guizhou was a remote area, the influence from Western ideas was less than elsewhere. ``We've done much work to control the influence and now the problem of `bourgeois liberalization' is under control,'' he said.