Peking has ordered a military takeover of one of the most important and troubled portions of the Chinese railroad system, an official provincial broadcast has reported.
The appointment of an army rail way corps commander to head the Chengchow Railway Bureau and the dispatch of other army offices to the bureau's key rail depot in central China confirms earlier reports of serious trouble on China's railroads, which are vital to a nation that has more miles of train track than paved roads.
It marks the second time since October's anti-radical purges in Peking that the army has been ordered to assume major civilian administrative duties. The action indicates that new Communist Party Chairman Hua Kuofeng thinks months of intrapartly bickering in some places has made it impossible to restore order without army help.
The announcement by the Honan provincial radio, monitored here yesterday, said "With a view to strengthening the leadership of Chengchow Railway Bureau and promoting revolution and production as quickly as possible, the party center headed by Chairman Hua has decided to transfer Kuo Wei-chen, deputy commander of the People's Liberation Army railway corps, and appoint him first Secretary of the Communist Party committee of the Chengchow Railway Bureau."
It said that Wang Wei-chun, a civilian party administrator in Honan, and Wang Hui, director of the local regional army engineering corps, had been appointed second and third bureau party secretariers respectively.
"At the same time," the announcement said, "in accordance with the requirement," the party center has asked the PLA railway coprs "to send some of its cadres to Chengchow Railway Bureau to help in work for sometime."
Hua's willingness to use army officers in Chengchow, where key north-south and east-west rail trunk lines meet, recalls the last days of the Cultural Revolution a decade ago, when soldiers were sent to take over hundreds of faction-torn organizations. Hua has announced plans for a major overhaul this year of party and government personnel and he appears to be following the example of the late Premier Chou En-lai in using army officers at least temporarily to fill gaps created by the purge of followers of radicals like Mao Tse-tung's widow, Chiand Ching.
The method holds pitfalls for Hua, a civilian party administrator who with army backing purged Chiang and her allies in October. After the Cultural Revolution, Mao and Chou had to fend off an alleged coup attempt by their leading general, Lin Piao, and reshuffle hundreds of military officers before they could begin to restore a measures of civilian party control over the country.
Several other broadcasts in the last few weeks indicate that the conflict between so-called radicals, many of them young people, and veteran party officials approached Cultural Revolution levels in the weeks before and after the death of Mao Sept. 9. The situation in Honan, where Chengchow is the provincial capital, was particularly bad. A Dec. 25 broadcast from there provided one of the few clear hints of some radical resistance even after Chiang and her Peking allies, now called the "gang of four," were purged.
When news of the purge and Hua's appointment as chairman reached Honan, it said, Chiang's local allies "behaved as though their parents had died and wailed loudly. They lamented, "This time it's all finished,' pleaded the innocence of the gang of four. Their reactionary ambition did not die," the broadcast said.
Yesterday's broadcast said there was a need to "eliminate the remnant poison and influence" of the radicals in the railway bureau, and a Honan army leader in a broadcast yesterday called for a similar effort throughout the province.
The broadcast did not identify the officials who had been discharged from leadership of the bureau officials were allies of Chiang and had launched a campaign to criticize the tough raliways minister, Wan Li. Wan had reportedly posted armed guards on trains and in depots last year to stop factional quarrels and had a habit of firing rail employees whom he found giving poor service during his unannounced inspection trips.
Rail officials allied with Wan and those allied with the radicals apparently clashed in Chengchow, requiring special Peking efforsts in April and August to restore order. Wan disappeared from sight, and although he was reportedly restored to power after the October purge, he has not reappeared. A deputy, Kuo Lu, seems to be performing his duties.
The importance of Hua's decision in the Chengchow matter is clear from the broadcast's reference to special orders from Peking. The same language has been used to describe Hua's actions in bringing order to other trouble spots, including the cities of Wuhan and Paoting and the province of Fukien, the other place where troops are known to have taken over civilian duties recently.
Kuo, the army officer sent to Chengchow, was rated a major general before military ranks were abolished more than a decade ago. Adcording to records kept by analysis here, he has had a long career in the army railway corps. Based in Peking, the corps has built most of the 15,000 miles of rail lines installed in China since the Communists came to power in 1949.
The Chengchow Railway Bureau, although only one of 20 such bureaus in the country, has unusual strategic and economic importance. Yesterday's broadcast said cryptically that the bureau was "developing forward," but that the "speed of advance has not kept pace with the rapid development of the situation."
Hua's propagandists have charged the radicals with sacrificing railroad efficiency in pursuit of their political objectives.
"We'd rather have a socialistic 'behind schedule' than a revisionist 'on schedule,'" they are quoted as saying.