Deng waves in the new leaders

CHINA'S 88-year-old supreme leader, Deng Xiaoping, came out of seclusion yesterday as the Communist Party's new Politburo, from which his successor is likely to come, was revealed.

Mr Deng, looking frail and sometimes distracted, was shown on the evening television news during his appearance at a meeting of the party's disciplinary commission. Supported and prompted by his daughter, Deng Nan, he spoke with the Prime Minister, Li Peng, and the party secretary, Jiang Zemin, and waved somewhat vaguely at the applauding delegates. One of his wrists was wrapped in surgical tape, possibly to receive an intravenous drip.

His rare emergence was implicit support for the new party leadership, which has been proclaimed as a change to a younger generation ready to carry out his 'reform and opening up' economic policies, while tolerating no relaxation of political control. The balance on both the Politburo and the higher Standing Committee was weighted in favour of his supporters, with the appointment of Zhu Rongji, 64, to the latter body attracting the most attention. A leading economic reformist, he is often mentioned as a potential successor to Mr Deng.

Mr Zhu's economic performance as mayor and party chief of Shanghai brought him promotion to the central government as a vice-premier, charged with applying his methods to the national economy. In June he was made director of the new Economic and Trade Office, which has taken much of the day-to-day control of the economy away from the more conservative prime minister.

During the democracy demonstrations in 1989, Mr Zhu managed to avert serious bloodshed in Shanghai. This, his results-oriented style and his willingness to give straight answers to foreign journalists' questions have made him stand out in the colourless Communist Party hierarchy and led to his being labelled 'China's Gorbachev', a title he hates. Perhaps to allay any reputation for liberalism, he was reported to have denounced 'peaceful evolution' - code for political pluralism - in a speech during the 14th party congress last week.

The same balance of economic pragmatism and political ruthlessness can be seen in the other new members of the Standing Committee, Liu Huaqing and Hu Jintao. Admiral Liu, who replaces the 85-year-old President Yang Shangkun as the military representative at the highest level of the party, is credited with starting the development of a deep-water navy. At 76 he is 27 years older than Mr Hu, the former party secretary in Tibet, where he showed his credentials by crushing demonstrations in 1988 and 1989.

When the new Standing Committee was brought out for the press yesterday, Mr Jiang introduced Mr Hu by saying: 'And we have a young man, not quite 50'. The interpreter translated this as: 'We have a young woman.' Despite loud press guffaws, Admiral Liu stood at attention throughout.

With Li Ruihuan and Qiao Shi, the party's security chief, all three of the newcomers to the Standing Committee are seen as Dengists, outnumbering the somewhat more equivocal Mr Li and Mr Jiang. The same is true of the Politburo - increased in size from 14 to 20 - where the party secretaries of all the booming coastal regions were appointed.

The other notable feature of the leadership is the higher presence of the military. President Yang's half-brother, Yang Baibing, joined the Politburo, while roughly half of the new members of the Central Committee come from the armed services. This reflects the increased influence of the military since the People's Liberation Army crushed the democracy movement in Peking three years ago.

Doing it Deng's way, page 19

(Photograph omitted)

Comments