Deng's would-be heir shows military muscle

Peking (Reuter) - The Chinese Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin was shown on television yesterday presiding over dramatic naval exercises - including rocket firings and marine landings - with his new military command huddled around him.

The state broadcast appeared to be designed to show Mr Jiang commanding absolute support in the People's Liberation Army, seen as crucial to his bid to succeed Deng Xiaoping, now 91, as China's leader. It also sent a clear message to Taiwan, quoting soldiers as vowing, under Mr Jiang, to "safeguard the reunification of the motherland" - that is, to return the Nationalist-ruled island to mainland control.

Mr Jiang's display of military clout came less than a week before his 24 October summit with President Bill Clinton and his address to the United Nations the same day. The exercise could touch off new criticism from China's neighbours, who fear the military ambitions of an economically resurgent and well-armed Asian superpower.

"Comrades, how bitterly you struggle!" Mr Jiang shouted through loudspeakers to sailors.

"Serve the people!" the crew responded in unison to Mr Jiang, who commands the armed forces as chairman of the Communist Party's Central Military Commission.