hree years after taking command and extolling pragmatism in China, Deng Xiaoping is refashioning his tableau of national policies with little apparent philosophical consistency except the aim of neutralizing his opposition.
In recent weeks, Communist Party Vice Chairman Deng and his ruling faction of moderates have gone back and forth across the political range with directives and pronouncements whose seemingly disparate stands include the following:
Reviving ideological incentives to spur industrial growth but endorsing Premier Zhao Ziyang's preference for monetary bonuses and other material incentives.
Calling for a purge of Cultural Revolution radicals still in power while continuing to flail at the "bourgeois liberalism" of intellectuals who paint too dark a picture of the chaotic years from 1966 to 1976.
Celebrating self-reliance as the real lesson of recent scientific breakthroughs while soliciting foreign investors and Western know-how.
Although most governments patch together policies, China's communist leaders traditionally have set up ideological frameworks and tailored social and economic programs to conform strictly with the model.
Deng generally eschews ideology in favor of pragmatism, as summarized by his now famous aphorism: "It doesn't matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches mice."
This ethic of pragmatism has been as faithfully executed as past guiding principles. With few exceptions, his rule has held fast to the moderate policies adopted in late 1978, including the opening to the West, curtailment of ideological activism and relaxation of social and economic controls.
Recently, however, Peking's moderation has shown signs of cracking. Since a clampdown last spring on creative freedom, a Western diplomat complained, "You need a road map to find the party line."
Foreign analysts believe policy fluctuations reflect discordant high-level party debates over such issues as the proper rate of economic growth, the role of heavy industry, toleration of divergent opinions and reliance on foreign investment.
Party factions have coalesced around some of these issues, forcing Deng to accommodate opposing forces before they are massive enough to challenge his leadership, diplomatic analysts say.
While there is no known organized opposition, old-line cadres in the Army, central bureaucracy and public security apparatus--including many whose careers rose during the Cultural Revolution--unite to challenge the moderates on certain issues.
Chinese sources view Deng not as an embattled manager fending off enemies, but as a genial mediator.
Either theory seems to explain the Central Committee's decision last month to restore as a national model the Daqing oil field in northeast China that Mao Tse-tung lionized in the 1960s because it stressed worker enthusiasm and political incentives to spark production.
The Daqing experience fell out of favor when Deng decided to rely on material incentives--wage raises, bonuses and piece rates. The "learn from Daqing" slogan championed by Mao was criticized as leftist and impractical.
The revival of the "spirit of Daqing" was especially surprising because the official press continues to rally behind Premier Zhao's economic plan based on material, not spiritual incentives, its emphasis on light industry and limited reliance on market forces.
Another apparent counterbalance to the broad opening to foreign influence and investment came in official reports this week on pioneering work by Chinese scientists who synthesized a chemical called yeast alanine T-RNA.
The breakthrough was extolled as evidence of "the spirit of self-reliance," a term in disuse since Deng replaced Mao's call for self-sufficiency with pursuit of foreign technology.
Foreign analysts view the policy shift as an important gesture to orthodox Marxists in the central leadership. It remains unclear whether the Daqing revival was mere lip service to Deng's critics.
The national parliament just passed a tax law all but designed by American oil companies expected to bid on drilling rights in the South China Sea. Officials of China's metallurgy industry, which expects to be a major exporter of rare metals, issued a statement two weeks ago welcoming foreign loans and technology to help exploit deposits of tin, tungsten, antimony, zinc, titanium, tantalum, nickel and other metals.
Intellectuals and professionals who suffered grievously during Mao's political campaigns are wary of efforts to burnish Mao's image.
Some of their worries were quieted with the publication this month of the selected works of Liu Shaoqi, China's former chief of state who was persecuted until he ultimately died during the Cultural Revolution. Liu stood for the pragmatic ideas party moderates now cherish.
Perhaps more reassuring to moderate forces was a commentary in the the latest edition of the party's theoretical journal Red Flag calling for the "resolute dismissal" of extremists who still occupy party and state posts.