China's leaders are moving to reduce further in influence, or perhaps remove totally from power, serveral important holdovers from the era of Chairman Mao Tse-tung, according to analysts here and in Washington.
The reports of action against sixth-ranked Communist Party leader and internal security expert Wang Dongxing (Wang Tung-hsing), as well as other members of the party's ruling Poltiburo, come only from unofficial sources so far, the analysts said, but appear to be grounded in fact.
Ouster of Wang, a former Mao bodyguard, and other leaders such as Vice Premier Ji Dengkui (Chi Teng-kuei), former Peking mayor Wu De (Wu Teh), model peasant Chen Yonggui (Chen Yung-kuei) and Peking commander Chen Xilian (Chen Hsi-lien), would mark a triumph for Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping (Teng Hsiao-ping) in his effort to reverse Mao's egalitarian economic and political policies in favor of a system based more on profits, merit and seniority.
All of the men reportedly under severe political attack have been removed from key administrative posts or severely reduced in power.But as long as they continue to hold seats on the Politburo, middle-level officials have reason to fear that Deng's policies, such as a return to the merit system in education, might suddenly be dropped. The official party press has complained vehemently about lower level officials' being afraid to honor new policies lest China's often changing political line change again, and leave them on the wrong side.
Some unofficial Chinese sources were saying a week ago that Wang, and some others, had been put under arrest, but that has not been verified. An editor of the People's Daily reportedly denied the arrest story in a conversation with a Western correspondent in Peking and said he saw Wang at a party meeting March 17.
Other sources said Wang and other Politburo members may have been placed under special surveillance or required to undergo the king of special studies reserved for those in political disfavor. Wang has not had a public appearance reported by China's official media since Feb. 15.
The top of the Chinese leadership is now crowded with elderly men who suffered political disgrace and temporary retirement at the hand of Mao during the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s. They were criticized for paying too much attention to the amount of steel produced by industry and the classroom grades earned by prospective university students, at the expense of guaranteeing that workers in the steel mill were having their say and that peasant children were getting into college in large numbers.
Several of the leaders now in political trouble rose to great power in the Cultural Revolution when the older veterans were purged. In the 1970s, however, many older men began to return to power. After Mao's death, in September, 1976, they took full control, reversing many of the egalitarian social experiments of the 1960s.
Deng, twice purged by Mao, is the veterans' intellectual leader, and is thought to be the most influential man in the government despite being only number three in the party hierarchy. His continued rise creates doubts about the authority of party Chairman and Premier Hua Guofeng (Hua Kuo-feng), a Mao appointee who is 17 years younger than Deng.
So far the two men appear to have been able to cooperate. Unofficial sources report no definite move so far against Hua or the number two party leader, Ye Jianjing (Yeh Chien-ying), 80, although reports persist that Deng might succeed Hua as premier.
Wang, 68, dropped one notch in the hierarchy in December when veteran leader Chen Yun was promoted over him. He lost a key post as supervisor of the central party office to a Deng protege. Soon after that, wall posters lambasted him for heavy-handed use of the network of domestic spies he ran under Mao.
Vice Permier Ji, in his late 50s of early 60s, lost a job as Peking political commissar in November. About the same time he was reportedly criticized for an overly optimistic report on China's agricultural progress.
Model peasant Chen Yonggui, 65, rose to prominence as leader of China's model production brigade, Dazhai (Tachai). But the model brigade has now been criticized for forcing peasants to give up private plots and succumbing to "arrogance." Chen Xi-lian in his mid-60s, appears to be receiving mostly sports delegations recently. Wu was fired as Peking mayor last year for cracking down on a demonstration in 1976 that supported party-veterans. CAPTION: Picture, DENG XIAOPING . . . triumph for his policies