The infant administration of Chinese Communist Party Chairman Hua Kuo-Feng appears to be facing its first full-fledged crisis after six days of surprisingly unrestrained public demands for changes in its lineup.
Wall posters have appeared in the center of Peking since last Thursday calling for the immediate appointment of twice-purged party veteran Teng Hsiao-Ping as head of the government and for disciplinary transfers for two Politburo members thought to be key Hua allies.
Hua has so far failed to make a joint appearance with his Politburo to commemorate the Jan. 8 anniversary of the death of Premier Chou En-Lai, and Hua's press agents yesterday took the unusual step of reporting a Hua banquet appearance without giving its date, as if the chairman was too occupied to appear in public but needed to keep his name in the headlines.
The wall poster demands that Peking Mayor Wu Teh and Peking army commander Chen Hsi-Lien be transferred out of the capital are a clear sign that China's political campaign against Mao Tse-Tung's disgraced widow, Chiang Ching, is no longer under the full control of the 12-member politburo. It confirms instead that a leadership debate over how to reward Teng and punish Chiang, which could only be surmised up to now from veiled hints in the official media, has escalated to blunt talk in the streets.
If the leadership debate over these questions is not resolved soon, China risks a return to rhe political confusion and production delays of the past year. There could also be serious damage to Hua's authority as Mao's successor.
In perhaps the oldest thrust yet, a new wall poster today criticized Vice Foreign Minister Wang Hai-jung for secretly underminig Teng's authority before his most recent purge. Wang, allegedly Mao's niece, had unusual access to Mao until shortly before his death, but appeared to be, like Teng, an opponent of Chiang and her radical colleagues.
The weekend's poster painting and slogan shouting, as reported by Western journalists in the Chinese capital, has so far displayed none of the violence of last year's April riots in Peking. Like last year's demonstrations, however, this week's crowds have come out to support the gentle, consumer-oriented communism represented by Chou and appeared to be spurred on both by individual sentiment and the behind-the-scenes maneuvers of key pressure groups.
For various, sometimes contradictory reasons, the crowds are trying to force. Hua and the rest of the leadership to make several key decisions.
When Teng will be returned to power and in what position;
How high and deep the purge of followers of Chiang's "gang of four" should go, and whether Chiang and her three radical cohorts should be executed;
Which of last year's political criminals, like the rioters at Tien An Men Square, should be pardoned now that the political climate has changed and their heroes, Teng and the late Premier Chou, appear to have returned to favor.
Some of the posters seen this week may be the work of former associates of Chiang trying to sidetrack a purge that seems aimed at them.
The free-for-all atmosphere over the last few days in the Chinese capital has rekindled an old debate among analysts here over how spontaneous such rare outpourings of man-in-the-street opinion in China are. Some argue that all the posters have been authorized by some faction of the leadership, others say that individuals are taking advantage of a temporary leadership stalemate to express their own views.
There are also some who suggest that Hua has encouraged expressions of opinion in the tradition of Mao's phrase, "Let a hundred flowers bloom," both to get a reading of popular sentiment and to lure his opponents into showing their true colors.
"We want Teng Hsiao-ping as premier right away," said a Peking poster seen Sunday, pinpointing perhaps the most difficult and immediate problem facing Hua. Giving in to this demand would mean relinquishing the premiership Hua now holds and giving it to an abrasive official with stronger ties to key army leaders than Hua has himself. It would also mean contravening the sacred instructions of Mao, who picked Hua, 56, over Teng, 73, for the top government post and reportedly said: "Teng is absolutely not the proper man to be premier."