Every political convention produces its winners and losers, and China's 5th National People's Congress has provided some of the first concrete signs of who is rising fast in the post-Mao era.
The obvious stars of this new government are Communist Party chairman and Premier Hua Kuo-feng, who retained his unprecedented role as head of party and government, and Vice Chairman Teng Hsiao-ping, who put many old friends in important jobs even if he didn't get the premiership for himself.
Yet it is in the ranks just below Hua and Teng that the most significant movements within the all-powerful 23-member party Politburo can be seen. Congress name lists show significant gains for two ancient army generals, an old Mongol leader and some relatively younger technocrats, and a loss of power by the two most important local party officials in the national capital, Peking Mayor Wu Teh and ary commander Chen Hsi-lien.
The changes illustrate the importance of personal ties in a government ostensibly run on policy considerations alone. They also reveal the continued reliance on leaders whose advanced ages guarantee more personnel changes in the near future.
Yeh Chien-ying, 80, has become chairman of the Congress' standing committee, making him ceremonial head of state. Analysts here are convicting a lively debate over whether this enhances his power as number two in the party, or gets him out of the way in punishment for such things as his earlier support of Lin Piao's, a defense minister who once tried to overthrow Party Chairman Mao Tse-tung.
Since they reorganized themselves just before August's 11th National Party Congress after two years of intense political infighting, the Politburo members have declined to put themselves into the kind of clear pecking order which Chinese officials usually prefer.
The just concluded Congress, which serves as China's parliament, has been forced, however, to draw up some nonparty rank lists that give substantial clues to the result's of manuvering of the past several months.Peking commander Chen, for instance, should have been number three in the new list of 13 vice premiers based on his ranking after the last Congress in 1975. Instead, he is number six, having been overtaken by the rising star of army Marshal Hsu Hsiang-chien, 75, and two younger men, petroleum and planning expert Yu Chiu-li, 64, and somewhat mysterious party technocrat Chi Teng-Kuei, about 60.
Peking Mayor Wu would rightly have expected to find himself listed third among vice chairmen of the Congress, based on his 1975 showing. But now he is fifth, having been overtaken by army marshal and nuclear weapons expert Nier Jung-chen, 79, and the mongol leader Ulanfu, 74, Wu has, surprisingly, managed to stay ahead of the fast rising southern China leader Wei Ku-ching, a Teng protege who has assumed important new responsibilities in the army. This may be a measure of the developing ability of Hua, 57, to protect some people identified with him.
Wu and Chen have clearly suffered for their outspoken participation in the campaign to criticize Ten Hsiao-ping that raged in the last few months of Mao's life and ended shortly after the chairman died.
Teng's friends in the army and government enlisted Hua's support, arrested the anti-Teng faction in the Politpuro, and brought Teng back to lend his administrative and intellectual energies to reviving the Chinese economy.
Wu, Chen and some others seemed to have wrapped themselves in Hua's cloak in reaction to this. Wu is regularly beside Hua at public appearances, and so far he and some other like them have survived.
Teng, in the meantime, has also gained a chairmanship, being elected Chinese People's Polictal Consultative Conference. The organization is designed to win support for the Communist Party among non-Communists, particularly intellectuals and overseas Chinese. The Chinese press has given unusual attention to this work in recent months, as part of the effort to revive science and techology and isolate the Nationalist Chinese on Taiwan. Teng's presence may make the cosultative conference a more important body in the future.
Among big losers in the Congress were two 78-year-old men who never even showed up, despite rumors that they might. Peng Chen, who was the Peking mayor in 1966 and a close colleague of Teng, was not rehabilitated from political limbo as many as his old friends have been. Peng Tehhaui, a powerful defense minister who lost out to Mao in a 1959 policy dispute, also did not reappear and there are reports now that he died a year ago.
Chairman Hua, meanwhile, has received a message from President Carter congratulating him on his reelection as premier and saying that relations between the United States and China are a "central element" in U.S. foreign policy.
China played up the message, broadcasting the full text of it over Peking Radio and carrying it on the official New China News Agency.
"I firmly believe that the expansion of friendly ties between the Chinese and American peoples will serve the cause of peace in Aisa and throughout the world," Carter's message said.