China congress dumps 'princelings' and hardliners

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The Independent Online
CHINA'S 'princelings' - the sons and daughters of senior Communist Party leaders - and leading cultural hardliners were significant absentees from the Central Committee elected at the close of the party's 14th congress yesterday.

The gathering ended with a ringing endorsement by nearly 2,000 delegates for the economic reform policies of the supreme leader, Deng Xiaoping. But they did not vote his daughter, Deng Nan, on to the committee. Xinhua news agency quoted the 45-year-old Ms Deng, a vice- minister in the State Science and Technology Commission, as saying: 'All I want is to attend the meeting unheeded and go back to work afterwards.'

Another offspring to miss election was Chen Yuan, vice-president of the People's Bank of China and the son of Chen Yun, Mr Deng's main hardline opponent among the party ancients. The same fate befell Bo Xicheng, who recently quit his government post to go into private business. His father, Bo Yibo, a Long March 'immortal', supports Mr Deng.

Nepotism and corruption in the party have long attracted resentment, figuring among the complaints of the 1989 democracy movement. The party secretary, Jiang Zemin, warned in his opening speech to the congress that senior cadres should set a good example, and 'teach their families to do the same'. This message seems to have been reinforced by keeping the 'princelings' off the Central Committee, which serves as a reservoir of candidates for the leadership and sometimes arbitrates when they fail to agree.

The other missing names to attract attention were those of leading members of the party's cultural apparatus, which has been the last redoubt of ideological conservatives. Wang Renzhi, head of the propaganda department, He Jingzhi, the acting Culture Minister, and Gao Di, editor of the People's Daily, were all voted out, and are now likely to find their jobs under threat.

Nearly half the Central Committee, which has been slightly expanded to 189 full members and 130 alternates, are new. With party elders like President Yang Shangkun and Wan Li, head of the National People's Congress, agreeing to step aside, the average age has come down from 60 to 56. In place of the ideologues have come younger bureaucrats and provincial leaders - three-fifths of the newcomers are under 55 - with practical experience of implementing the economic changes Mr Deng wants to make, such as streamlining state industry and encouraging the private sector.

The 88-year-old supreme leader failed to appear for the closing session of the congress, during which he was described as 'the chief architect of China's reform, opening up and modernisation programme', who had made 'major historic contributions to the establishment of the theory and the line'.

Mr Deng has been deluged with praise in the past week, in an apparent attempt to ensure that his policies survive him, but he was reported to have stopped efforts to enshrine his name in the party constitution as a theorist equal with Marx, Lenin and Mao Tse-tung. This is likely to be a matter for the 15th congress, due in 1997.