More than a year after their rise to power, the successors of Mao Tse-Tung in China have confessed disappointment at their failure to remove several political enemies and have begun to betray uncertainty over how the purge should proceed.
So far, only about 200 to 300 out of thousands of officials at the provincial level or higher have been publicly reprimanded in some way for involvement with four former Politburo members led by Mao's widow, Chiang.
Peking has complained in a major new article that officials at the lower levels with links to the "Gang of Four" have not been properly identified and some officials who fought Chiang Ching and company have not been sufficiently rewarded. In some areas, officials apparently cleared of any wrongdoing have suddenly and inexplicably dropped out of sight.
Also it appears that the Chinese army has ignored pressure for the dismissal of some of its top officers, choosing simply to transfer them out of areas where they have found themselves in political trouble.
Since Party Chairman Hua Kuo-feng and his allies put CHiang Ching and Shanghai leaders Chang Chun-chiao, Wang Hung-wen and Yao Wen-yuan under arrest last Oct. 6, the official Chinese press has regularly demanded that vestiges of the ousted group's influence on party policy be removed. Failure to remove former admirers of the dogmatic brand of Maoism preached by Chiang and the Shanghai leaders could hinder efforts to reinstitute material incentives in the economy and to modernize rapidly China's conventional armaments policies, which apparently were resisted by the Gang of Four.
"Until now owing to the pernicious influence of the Gang of Four, some comrades especially those doing cadre work have not done their best regarding such major issues of right and wrong as the implementations of the party's policy on cadres," said the official Peoples Daily Oct. 7. "As a result, cadres with line consciousness and work capability have not yet received work assignments. No correct conclusions have been reached on many cadres who are being examined and certain bad elements who have worned their way into the ranks of cadres have not yet been dealt with."
As sometimes happens with particularly sensitive pronouncements, the official New China News Agency distributed the Peoples Daily article in Chinese on the day it was published, but waited until today to distribute an English language version.
The English version did not include a translation of the above quote, nor did it include the article's admonition that "the bad elements who sneaked into the ranks of party members of cadres should be purged mercilessly."
The purge seems to have encountered particularly acute problems in the province of Kiangsi, where provincial party chief Chiang Wei-ching has not been seen in public since Sept. 9. A leading Peking trouble-shooter, Li Ching-chuan, and the aged president of China's Supreme Court, Chiang Hua, have both turned up this month in Kiangsi, which suggests that factional struggles the provincial radio has complained of may have taken an unusual turn. The appearance of Chiang Hua, who is not known to be related to Chiang Wei-ching, is the chief of China's high court rarely leaves Peking.
Chiang Wei-ching was recently re-elected to the 11th Party Central Committee and would seem to be politically secure just by virtue of the fact that he was severely attacked by Chiang Ching supporters during the late 1960s. But he also happened to be the last major Chinese leader to praise Chiang Ching publicly before her arrest last year. He voiced his approval of her last September at a time when one of his principal advisers on the provincial revolutionary committee was in a hospital recovering from being kidnaped by students allegedly directed by Chiang Ching.
In the northeast Chinese province of Kirin, the former provincial chief, army officer Wang Huai-hsiang, has apparently come under severe attack in the official local press for ties to the Gang Four. Wang has turned up, apparently unscathed, in an upper-level post in the Wuhan military region, several hundred miles to the south of Kirin. Experts on the Chinese army here say they think they have detected a pattern of army officers being transferred, rather than purged, out of trouble spots.
Hua Kuo-feng owes his position as party chairman to the army, so the military leadership in Peking appears confident that they are safe from any criticism for treating lightly those officers who have come under a cloud.
In most areas, the problem seems to be that local leaders remain uncertain if the current Peking leadership and its policies will prevail, and do not want to move too quickly in one direction.
"They act with kid gloves, wait to see what will happen and dare not struggle," said a recent broadcast.