Chinese Communist Party Chairman Hua Guofeng formally announced today he is giving up his post as premier in a wide-ranging government shake-up designed to promote younger men and keep power from becoming concentrated in too few hands.
An extraordinary series of articles in the official press in recent weeks, however, suggest that the change may also involve a lively power struggle apparently going on to undermine Hua and any other leader who does not have the confidence of a group of senior party officials led by Vice Chairman Deng Xiaoping.
Hua, as had been expected, said Zhao Ziyang, 61-year-old economic innovator, will become premier, only the third man to hold that position in the 31-year-old history of the People's Republic. He also said seven vice premiers, many of them elderly, would resign their government posts.
In his two-hour speech before the National People's Congress, Hua described in detail the key obstacles in the path of Chinese progress, notably bureaucracy, an excess of population and an overcentralized economy. But he gave no hint of a power struggle under way within the top ranks of the party.
The articles appearing in the official press recently have used ancient Chinese history to make veiled attacks on Hua and indicated those around Deng still hope to strip the 59-year-old chairman of the party leader ship he acquired through his patron, the late chairman Mao Tse-tung.
As Hya spoke today, Deng sat slumped in his seat on the stage of the Great Hall of the People's auditorium, smoking and sometimes seeming to doze off. At 76, he and some of his elderly colleagues are resigning their government post as vice premiers but keeping their more important posts in the party's ruling Politburo.
Hua has appeared to fend off the Deng campaign against him by supporting most of Deng's policies.In today's speech, Hua went so far as to denounce a series of overblown economic targets that he had proposed in 1978.He said the government had decided to tear up a draft 10-year plan based on the targets and start all over again with a 1981-to-1990 plan. He also said a new committee composed of most of the nation's top leaders would totally rewrite the state constitution. When Premier Chou En-lai died in early 1976, most party leaders assumed Deng would take his post, but a small group of dogmatic advisers persuaded Mao that Deng would try to install a merit system and economic freedoms that would puncture Mao's dream of an egalitarian China.
Deng was purged briefly, and Hua was made premier and then also became party chairman after Mao's death. Deng subsequently returned to power, and has steadily isolated Hua and others with some lingering commitment to Mao's policies.
In a series of recent historical articles in the People's Daily and the Guangming Daily, writers from Deng's camp have been undercutting Hua in indirect Chinese fashion. One article spoke of an unscrupulous Tang Dynasty eunuch whose emperor expressed confidence in him with words nearly identical to those used by Mao to praise Hua.
A People's Daily article on Sept. 1 discussed another dynastic official who received the blessing of an ailing emperor and afterwards took over the country with army help, a reference perhaps to Hua's close dealings with some Army leaders.
In a Guangming article on Aug. 19, which pointed directly at Hua's resignation today, historian Zhang Zhizhi debunked the theory that the premier of the small Chinese state 2,000 years ago had resigned willingly in favor of a "worthy successor." In fact, the man had done a bad job and was later executed.
In explaining his decision to step down as premier, Hua said the party Central Committee had decided in February that party chiefs at the provincial or city level should no longer serve at the same time as governors and mayors as had been the practice.
"This was aimed at preventing overconcentration of power and the holding of too many posts concurrently by one person and at effectively and clearly separating party work from government work," he said. This would make both party and government work more efficient.
He said he had resigned as premier "in line with this principle," adding: "The Central Committee believes that Zhao Ziyang is a suitable choice and worthy of trust."
Zhao clearly has Deng's blessing as the man who successfully applied material incentives and decentralization programs in Deng's native Sichuan Province. But his career suggest his oldest patrons in the government may be two other party leaders, Ye Jianying and Li Xiannian, who are not entirely in Deng's camp.
Zhao will be the lowest-ranked and least-experience man yet to become a premier of the People's Republic. He has worked in Peking less than a year and is ranked seventh in the party hierarchy behind Hua, Ye, Deng, Li, aged economic planner Chen Yun and Deng's closest protege, party General Secretary Hu Yaobang.
However, Hua weakened his message by suggesting that some elderly leaders would escape the housecleaning. Reducing the aveage age of the leadership only means increasing the percentage of younger officials, he said.
"It does not mean the removal of all older people from leading posts," Hua explained."Moreover, age requirements for leading officials should vary at different levels."
Hua bemoaned the failure to eliminate bureaucratic abuses in the government, which have slowed reforms and brought thousands of people to camp in Peking streets this summer, while they ask for help in settling complaints against their local officials.
Hua called for more careful selection of officials, more responsibility for leaders at the lower levels, more inspections and clearer rules on the duties of various offices. But he seemed to weaken his point again by calling for caution and repeated study of any new programs to avoid unnecessary mistakes.
Hua emphasized the need to raise living standards, and said the government was working on both the 1981-to-1990 plan and a five-year plan for the years 1981 to 1985. American businessmen have been told major decisions on new purchases abroad must await the completion of this draft plan. Hua named "five veteran leaders of the party" who will resign as vice premiers: Deng, Li, Chen, Defense Minister Xu Xianglian and former Gen. Wang Zhen. All are in their 70s.
Hua said Wang Renzhong, 74, would also resign as vice premier, apparently because he had "taken up an important post in the party," serving on the secretariat.
A seventh vice premier, model peasant Chen Yongqui, "had asked to be relieved of his post," Hua said. Chen was the leader of the Dazhai (Tachai) model production brigade, a favorite of Mao's and Hua's that is now accused of making its reputation from falsified economic statistics and enormous injections of state aid.
Hua said, "It has become increasingly evident that the advanced ages and lack of professional knowledge of many government leaders at various levels makes them unequal to the requirements of the four modernizations," China's program to become a major industrial power by the year 2000.
He said work at promoting younger leaders " had been going on at a rather slow pace," and, although there were many qualified young officials, "the trouble is that some people do not try to find them."
Hua also called for a "crash program" during the next 30 to 40 years to persuade each Chinese couple to have only one child. This would stabilize the population at about 1.2 billion by the end of the century, he said.
Hua also repeated the Chinese call for Taiwan's return to mainland control and condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as well as the Vitnamese invasion of Cambodia. The latter remarks led to a walkout by Soviet Bloc diplomats. They were observing the Congress because of a Chinese decision to end a 20-year ban on attendance by foreign envoys and journalists.