Chinese ruler Deng Xiaoping led a mass retirement of revolutionary veterans from the Communist Party's highest body yesterday in an effort to achieve the first orderly succession in China's modern history. The retirements from the party's Central Committee and its ruling bodies came during the closing session of the 13th Communist Party Congress. They mark a victory for Mr. Deng in his final push to install a younger, more collective leadership.
A smooth transfer of power to younger leaders would help Deng advance his economic reforms and promote long-term political stability.
Deng, 83, will remain the ultimate arbiter of major policy decisions despite the relinquishment of his seat on the elite five-member Standing Committee of the party Politburo, according to Chinese officials and Peking-based diplomats.
``The leadership role that will be played by Deng Xiaoping ... is not determined by what kind of post he choses,'' congress spokesman Zhu Muzhi said. ``Although he has left the party Central Committee, his prestige and wisdom will ensure him a major role in the work of both the party and the state.''
Seated at the center of a vast podium under a gold hammer and sickle and red banners, Deng observed solemnly as 1,959 congress delegates in the Great Hall of the People raised their hands to adopt a resolution that singled him out for praise.
While calling for unity within the 46-million member party, the resolution reiterated the need to ``accelerate and deepen'' the market reforms orchestrated by Deng since he emerged as China's top leader in 1978.
Deng is likely to stay on as chairman of the influential Military Commission, which controls China's 3-million-strong armed forces, Asian and Western diplomats said. A key revision of the party constitution approved by the congress makes Deng eligible for reelection to the post.
The mass withdrawal of China's most senior conservatives from the party Central Committee and its ruling bodies weakens the political forces hindering Deng's economic reform drive.
Those who joined Deng in leaving the powerful Politburo Standing Committee include Chen Yun, 82, a veteran economist who has led a conservative faction opposed to the dismantling of China's Soviet-style state planning regime on grounds it will generate social instability. Also retiring is President Li Xiannian, 78, a moderate whose views on the economy are also more orthodox.
Leading conservatives who stepped down from the Central Committee include Peng Zhen, 85, a prominent spokesman for China's tightly-knit legal and security establishment. In addition were Marxist ideologues Deng Liqun and Hu Qiaomu, the most outspoken proponents of this year's crackdown on ``bourgeois liberalization,'' a term used to describe the rising appeal of Western ideas in China.
One-hundred-fifty aged leaders - 43 percent of the previous 348-member Central Committee - failed to win seats on the new Central Committee.
The new committee has 285 members, of which 175 are full members and 110 are alternates. Their average age is slightly more than 55, four years below that of the last Central Committee elected. Roughly half of the members are college-educated.
The turnover on the Central Committee continues a sweeping rejuvenation launched by Deng at a rare national party conference in September 1985, when nearly one-fifth of the Central Committee members were replaced with younger leaders.
Congress officials stressed that the leadership succession is not yet complete. ``We haven't yet fulfilled the task,'' said Zhu, the congress spokesman.
``The complete rejuvenation may need another 10 years - spanning two national congresses,'' echoed the official New China News Agency.
Composed of delegates from all of China's provinces, the Central Committee is elected every five years by a party congress. It is the main forum for transmitting and endorsing policies formulated by its ruling bodies: the Secretariat, Politburo, and its Standing Committee.
The new Central Committee convenes its first plenum today, which is expected to confirm Premier Zhao Ziyang as party general secretary and select Deng as Military Commission chairman. The plenum is also expected to elect several younger leaders to form a new Politburo and Standing Committee.