BEIJING, SEPT. 10 -- China's top leader, Deng Xiaoping, will soon retire from two high-level positions but will remain the country's most influential leader, according to western and Asian diplomats.
The diplomats said that Deng is to retain his title as chairman of the Communist Party military commission, which gives him control of the Army.
Diplomats said that Deng spoke of his "retirement" plans in a meeting with Susumu Nikaido, former vice president of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, at a meeting here Saturday.
The diplomats said that Deng, 83, will step down from the ruling Politburo and from the chairmanship of the Communist Party's central advisory commission. The retirement moves are said to be aimed, in part, at inducing two other elderly leaders who have been reluctant supporters of Deng's economic reforms to retire as Politburo members.
They are President Li Xiannian, 81, who has already said that he wants to leave the Politburo, and Chen Yun, 82, a prestigious economist who has questioned the scope, pace and side effects of the economic changes Deng has introduced.
Diplomats said that Deng's prestige, experience and all-important connections with other leaders will allow him to maintain great influence.
Several years ago, Deng shed two of his titles, vice premier and party vice chairman, in an unsuccessful attempt to pressure rivals to resign. Deng dropped the titles without relinquishing real authority.
It is widely agreed that the retirement of Chen Yun, who appeared feeble during his last public appearance more than a month ago, would remove a major obstacle to new and more innovative economic changes.
Analysts said that the ailing Li Xiannian may stay on as president, a largely ceremonial position, until next spring, when the National People's Congress, or parliament, can be expected to confirm his resignation.
But the most important move for Li would be his resignation from the Politburo, a 20-member body that rules on the country's major policies.
Deng and his protege, acting Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang, have gone on the offensive recently in political maneuvering that is expected to continue "right up to the last minute" before the party congress, according to Chinese sources.
Some sources said the top leaders have yet to agree on who should be appointed premier, replacing Zhao, who is expected to become Communist Party leader.
The party congress, originally expected to be held at the end of September or in early October, was postponed until Oct. 25, apparently because so many disagreements had to be resolved.
In a move apparently designed to strengthen reform, meanwhile, a decision has been made to abolish certain of the Communist Party committees that exist at every level of the government, according to the pro-communist newspaper Wen Wei Po in Hong Kong.
Deng has spoken a number of times of the need to eliminate situations where the Communist Party takes over the work of the government, or where the two have overlapping functions.
The decision to keep Deng on in the meantime as chairman of the military commission was not considered surprising. No other leader, including acting party chief Zhao, now has the standing with the Army needed to head the commission.
As former party leader Hu Yaobang once put it, it took five sentences from Hu or Zhao to get something done by the Army, but only one sentence from Deng.