WEARING the simple laborer's cap that is his trademark, party elder Chen Yun has emerged from retirement in the latest sign of China's new tilt toward communist orthodoxy. A strait-laced Marxist and staunch advocate of central planning, Mr. Chen is using his influence to halt many of the bold reforms of senior leader Deng Xiaoping.
Chen is too frail and his power base is too narrow for him to pose a political threat to Mr. Deng, analysts say. His only post is chairman of the Central Advisory Commission, a panel of Communist Party elders, and he has been bedridden for much of the past two years.
But Chen's reappearance for National Day celebrations affirms that Deng has had to shelve major economic reforms and revive aspects of Marxist dogma to satisfy Chen and other conservative members of the party's old guard, Western diplomats say.
``Chen is too weak physically and politically to do much against Deng, but because of his pristine background and seniority, his words have great force,'' a diplomat said, requesting anonymity.
The comeback of Chen marks his vindication. For several years he has acted as the party's Cassandra, vainly warning that market-oriented reforms would throw the economy out of control and that broad contact with capitalist countries would provoke political instability.
Now, the party is struggling with its gravest economic and political crisis ever: Urban inflation exceeds 25 percent. Popular discontent is widespread over corruption and the denial of basic freedoms.
In a tacit acknowledgment that Chen was right, Deng rallied Chen and other retired party elders behind a brutal crackdown against the liberal protests this spring. Deng had coaxed the veterans into retirement.
Several signs indicate that Chen has stayed on since the June 3-4 massacre in Beijing to put his stamp on state policy, the diplomats say.
Leadership: Three of Chen's prot'eg'es emerged from a shake-up in late June with seats on the six-member Politburo Standing Committee, the party's ruling body. They are Premier Li Peng, Vice-Premier Yao Yilin, and Organization Department chief Song Ping.
Agriculture: Mr. Li and party General Secretary Jiang Zemin have repeated that grain production is critical to economic well-being. Throughout his career, Chen has depicted grain as ``the key link'' in agriculture.
Industry: The leadership has recently subordinated private companies to state-run, medium- and large-scale enterprises. In line with Chen's proclivity for central economic planning, Beijing has tightened control over the economy and sought to restrict private enterprises that compete with the state-owned sector.
Party administration: Chen played a major role in the party's fight against corruption when he was head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. He has retained significant influence in that area with the rise of Mr. Song as head of the Organization Department, analysts say. Song worked under Chen for more than a decade.
Much of Chen's power comes from his impeccable background in the party, analysts say. He joined the Long March (1934-35), the party's epic flight from Nationalist forces. After the 1949 revolution, he became one of China's leading economic planners, helping to draw up the country's first five-year plan.