The Communist Party swept aside a key figure of Maoist China and elevated to the ruling Politburo, which was was elected today, a new group of veteran bureaucrats known to favor the pragmatic policies of leader Deng Xiaoping.
But, in an unexpected turn, the party's Central Committee assured China's powerful military a strong voice in national affairs by reappointing to the Politburo several aged, conservative generals who had been expected to retire and by electing other soldiers to top leadership posts.
On balance, the personnel changes made by the 210-member Central Committee today seem to strengthen Deng's mandate for reform. The new lineup ousted the late party chairman Mao Tse-tung's handpicked successor Hua Guofeng from leadership ranks, retained Deng's protege Hu Yaobang at the party's pinnacle and elevated enough of Deng's allies to give him a clear majority on the Politburo for the first time. Six of the seven new full-time members of the Politburo are Deng loyalists.
Nevertheless, Deng was deprived of his maximum objectives at the just-completed party congress when the new Central Committee reelected veteran political figures who reportedly have opposed some of his reform measures.
Deng, 78, had made plain his desire to step into semi-retirement and take with him several of his aged foes into a new central advisory commission. The advisory panel was created by the party congress last week as a way to ease out the veterans and make way for a new breed of Communist technocrats loyal to Deng's policies.
In addition to bringing new blood into the party's ruling ranks, Deng reportedly wanted to remove personalities that party bureaucrats in lower positions might rally around.
Yet the appointments announced today seem to contradict the party's goal of replacing its gerontocracy, according to diplomats. The Politburo's 25 full members and three alternate members -- including Deng, who remains on its important standing committee -- are slightly older as a group than the outgoing panel, which had an average age of 72.
Few of Deng's conservative opponents moved into the advisory commission. Diplomats were puzzled by the sudden shift in what was expected to be a clean sweep for Deng, who has skillfully maneuvered for two years to monopolize the party's decision-making apparatus.
Some foreign analysts said the unexpected turn possibly reflects a conservative backlash from the military, which may have balked at such a wholesale change.
The Central Committee -- the party's overall policy making body when the Congress is not in session -- placed eight military officers on the Politburo, which is the party's chief legislative-executive organ. Those who were renamed to the Politburo are Army Marshals Ye Jianying, 85, Nie Rongzhen, 82, and Xu Xiangqian, 80, and Army Gen. Wei Guoqing, 76, Air Force Commander Zhang Tingfa, 76, and northeast regional military commander Li Desheng, 66.
Other military figures chosen for the first time were Army Chief of Staff Yang Dezhi, 72, and Peking region military commander Qin Jiwei, 72, who is an alternate.
Despite this unexpectedly strong conservative comeback, the appointments today are believed to leave Deng in a stronger position to carry out his expanded foreign policy and his plans to modernize China.
"This is far from the optimum arrangement for Deng," said a Western analyst. "He's had to make some compromises. But he's still moving the power away from the obstacles and to the people they want."
Even with the military's strong showing, Deng retains control over the world's largest standing army since he was reappointed chairman of the party's military commission. Diplomats believe he kept the post because the three vice chairmen -- Ye, Nie and Xu -- refused to step down. Ye is believed to be a key opponent to Deng's pragmatic policies.
The Central Committee today elected Deng's longtime bridge partner, Hu Yaobang, to be the party's general secretary, the Politburo's leading figure under the new constitution adopted by the congress. He had been party chairman until the new charter abolished the job.
Hu heads a new standing committee -- which acts for the Politburo when it is not in session -- that tilts in Deng's favor for the first time. Other members are Deng and another protege, Premier Zhao Ziyang. Ye and another official believed to oppose Deng, conservative economic administrator Li Xiannian, 77, were also named to the committee.
Li and Ye until today could count on the conservative vote of a sixth standing committee member -- Hua Guofeng -- who was dumped from the new Politburo, leaving the Deng supporters in control of the five-man panel.
Hua, 61, who gained influence during the chaotic Cultural Revolution, has steadily lost ground as Deng chipped away at Mao's mystique and rid China of his radical policies. Forced to step down as premier in 1980 and party chairman last year, Hua now serves only on the Central Committee.
Replacing the conservatives are six veteran officials who have tied their careers to Deng and his pragmatic brand of socialism -- Vice Premier Wan Li, 66, party ideologist Hu Qiaomu, 72, organization department chief Song Renqiong, 73, general secretary of the military commission Yang Shangkun, 78, Secretariat member Xi Zhongxun, 74, and overseas Chinese liaison expert Liao Chengzhi, 74.
General Secretary Hu also presides over the Secretariat, which runs day-to-day affairs of the huge party bureaucracy. Four of the outgoing members who were elevated to the Politburo were replaced by others associated with Deng or Hu.