CHINA'S rubber-stamp legislature yesterday promoted two pragmatic
officials to be vice premiers in what is widely seen as an
encouraging sign for the country's besieged economic reforms.
The elevation of the moderates is an attempt by Deng Xiaoping,
China's senior leader and the architect of reform, to rebuff a
powerful faction of doctrinaire conservatives, say Western and Asian
The changes could help Mr. Deng revive the credo of bold
innovation that inspired his reforms before his rivals reimposed
strict central planning in 1988, the diplomats say.
The new vice premiers - Zou Jiahua, head of the State Planning
Commission, and Zhu Rongji, mayor of Shanghai - are said to favor a
renewal of market-oriented economic forces. They are likely to tilt
the State Council, China's Cabinet, away from the harsher aspects of
a command economy, the diplomats say.
"These changes are the most promising political sign for economic
reform in more than two years," says an Asian diplomat on condition
The appointments are unlikely to spur immediate price decontrol,
private shareholding, and other reforms that conservatives shelved.
A severe deficit and worries of inflation preclude initiatives that
could undercut stability, the diplomats say.
"The economy is in lousy shape and social stability is still the
main concern: No one is going to go out on a limb for reform," a
Western diplomat says.
Nevertheless, Mr. Zou and Mr. Zhu are likely to resist the
continued dismantling of Deng's reforms and, if the economy
improves, might support en- lightened changes, diplomats say.
Zhu, in particular, is said to approach economics with a
pragmatic, open mind, free of orthodox Marxism. He earned the
plaudits of foreign businessmen and the nickname "One-Chop Zhu"
because of his efforts to cut red tape and promote foreign
investment in China's largest city.
Wooing new investment
Since becoming Shanghai's mayor in 1988, Zhu has stumped
successfully among leadership circles for the Pudong New Area, a
large tract of run-down buildings and rice paddies in East Shanghai
set aside for foreign investment.
According to a highly ambitious development scheme, Pudong would
include high-technology manufacturing, a free port, and foreign bank
branches. It is the pet project of some leaders who see it as the
catalyst for development of the lower half of the Yangtze River