Continuing frictions within the Chinese government have prompted a warning in the official People's Daily against going too far in replacing leaders at a time when the country is trying to stabilize and forge ahead economically.
The warning, in a lengthy editorial in Saturday's editions, is the latest expression of concern by the Chinese leadership of the effects of former party purges.
The disagreements -- caused by tensions between young and old officials and between victors and victims of the 1960s Cultural Revolution -- appear to have little if anything to do with China's border war with Vietnam, despite reports from Hanoi suggesting widespread antiwar sentiment in Peking.
There appear to have been no easily discernible hints of a Peking split over the war in the official press, which usually provides some clues when debates become heated inside the Communist Party. Instead, the Chinese leadership seems concerned by the ongoing effect of former party purges. In many offices, officials temporarily purged during the Cultural Revolution and the officials who took over their jobs now have to try to work together.
"To look ahead, we sometimes need to look back for a while, but we should not constantly keep our eyes on things behind us," the People's Daily said. "Can we not forget or ignore personal grudges or personal interests?"
Vietnam's official press has said the Chinese decision to withdraw from Vietnam's border area was in part forced by rising antiwar feelings in China. It said a dissident radio station inside China has been making clandestine broadcasts against the war. Western analysts reportedly have been unable to pick up these broadcasts, even when using the frequency and schedule provided by Hanoi.
Western correspondents in Peking did report seeing one wallposter in mid-February arguing against the war, but the Chinese generally appear to be supporting it. Peking residents in contact with young intellectuals who have been writing many of the prodemocracy wallposters say they have heard arguments against the war, but there does not appear to be a major antiwar faction in the party's leadership.
Foreign analysts have speculated that it would be hard for Chinese leaders to argue against the border invasion when war supporters detail the suffering of Chinese residents hit by Vietnamese border raids. The war also gives Chinese military leaders a chance to test their troops and it gives anti-Soviet strategists a chance to show Peking's willingness to fight for its borders. Peking might also hope that the war disrupts relations between the Soviets and the United States.
The Chinese have admitted disputes lately within the leadership on other issues. Articles have complained that some officials are too quick to try to silence wallposters and underground newspapers that criticize the leadership.
Several high officials recently had to publicly criticize their own failure to move fast enough in bringing once-purged technical experts back to work to help modernize the economy.
Liu Zihou, party chief in Hebei [Hopeh] Province, which surrounds Peking, admitted to "overcautiousness" in work and putting "all sorts of restrictions" on farm villages, according to the official New China News Agency.
"At present, leading groups at various levels are composed of both veteran cadres with rich experiences and new cadres brought up during the Cultural Revolution," the editorial said. Such cadres will "view things from different angles and therefore have some differences of opinion." But disputes have become serious in some places, and factionalism "continues to bewitch some persons in party organizations of some localities and units."
"Any inner-party struggle which fails to promote inner-party unity is wrong," the editorial said, in a blunt dismissal of the Cultural Revolution belief in struggle to rid the bureaucracy of those criticizing Mao Tsetung's egalitarian social programs. In recent months the official Chinese press has essentially repudiated the Cultural Revolution, but officials who benefited from its upheavals like party Chairman Hua Guofeng (Hua Kuo-feng), remain in office.Attempting to remove all of them would just disrupt further a government trying to revive the economy. The editorial advises against "changing officials simultaneously with the change of leadership."