Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Chinese Party Congress Offers Praise for Reforms but Bitter Power Struggle Continues Behind the Scenes

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Chinese Party Congress Offers Praise for Reforms but Bitter Power Struggle Continues Behind the Scenes

Article excerpt

CHINESE Communists gave leader Deng Xiaoping a ringing endorsement of his market reforms yesterday even as his party remains deeply divided on the issue.

In a two-hour bellwether speech kicking off a crucial party congress, General Secretary Jiang Zemin heralded Mr. Deng's prescription of economic opening and tight political control. He spoke under a huge hammer-and-sickle emblem flanked by drapes of red bunting.

Although the week-long meeting is expected to strengthen the Chinese leader's hand in accelerating economic change, party conservatives who advocate slower reforms remain formidable, diplomatic and Chinese analysts say.

The meeting is expected to advance younger, reform-minded advocates of Deng's economic agenda in anticipation of a new power struggle among the next generation of Chinese leaders.

In a speech marked by economic conundrums and rhetorical contradictions, Mr. Jiang, a sometime Deng ally who observers say is being shunted aside, praised the market opening while predicting that "a market economy established under the socialist system can and should operate better than one under the capitalist system.

"Reform is also a revolution, a revolution whose goal is to liberate the productive forces," Jiang said, urging the almost 2,000 party delegates to "not get bogged down in an abstract debate over what is socialist and what is capitalist."

"This is a compromise speech between the two camps. But there is still a give and take," says an Asian diplomat in Beijing. "No one can discount the hard-liners and their power. Deng may have won the first round, but there are many more to go."

The long-awaited party meeting comes eight months after Deng made a rare pilgrimage to free-market bastions in southern China and launched his latest offensive against revolutionary hard-liners resisting economic liberalization. …

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