STJust when you think they have everything straightened out in China, somebody put up a wall poster and throws [WORDS ILLEGIBLE]

Almost everyone I've met who has come back from China has praise for how well organized everything is and how disciplined the people are. But whether we want to admit it or not the People's Republic is still having an identity problem.

Take the cast of Lao Po. Lao Po was a house behind the wall. It is a perfect place for a poster and every morning when Lao Po wakes up he's afraid to go out and look at the wall.

A few months ago a poster had been stuck on his wall defaming the "Gang of Four" and singing the praises of Hua Kuo-feng, Mao's successor. The people standing in front of Lao Po's house seemed satisfied and thanked Lao Po for bringing them such good news. Lao passed out rice wine to all the poster readers so they could toast Hua Kuo-feng, and at the time revile the "Gang of Four" for disgracing the thoughts of Mao Tse-tung.

A few weeks later Lao Po sleepily opened his gate to see another poster on his wall. This one reviled Hua Kuo-feng as a secret ally of the "Gang of Four" and one of the masterminds behind the ouster of defense minister Peng Teh-huai.

What the poster failed to mention was that Mao Tse-tung had personally purged Peng in 1959 after Peng had critized Mao's excesses in the disastrous great leap forward.

The people reading the poster turned on Lao Po and said, "What in the name of Mao is going on?"

Lao Po nervously replied, "It is true that this poster is on my wall, but I am not responsible for the opinions expressed on it, though I am certain it wouldn't be here if it didn't have the full approval of the people who are in power."

"And who is in power?" one of the wall poster readers demanded.

"I wish I knew," said Lao Po, scurring back into his house.

For nights Lao Po couldn't sleep. He kept peeking out his window hoping to see who was putting up another poster. But whoever did it managed to do so without being observed.

A week later there was a racket in front of the house. A new wall poster had proclaimed that Mao Tse-tung was personally reponsible for many of China's political problems, and had collaborated with the "Gang of Four" to bring down Tao Chu and Peng Chen, who had been disgraced during the cultural revolution.

Lao Po refused to open the gate as the wall poster readers shouted at him. "Are you trying to tell us Mao is out?" someone yelled.

"Please," Lao Po pleaded, "I have nothing to do with what is posted on my wall. I am sorry I own a wall. If anyone wants it, they can have it."

"You can't get out of your responsibility that easily," a peasant doctor yelled. "If Mao is not the father of us all, then who is?"

"It should be on a poster next week," Lao Po said.

"It better be," a schoolteacher said, "or we're cancelling our subscription to your wall.

Last week a poster went up announcing party chairman Hua was a noddle, Mae was a sour pork, Chou En-lai was a wonton leader and vice-premier Teng Hsiaoping had been elected grand marshal of Peking's Rose Bowl parade.

It was too much for Lao Po's wall readers to take. They went into his house and thrashed him within an inch of his life. When the police asked why they had done it, the reply was, "You couldn't walk past Lao Po's house without his giving you some kind of bad news."