BEIJING, DEC. 30 -- The Communist Party, after months of bitter wrangling, approved broad guidelines for China's future political and economic course that called for the preservation of socialism and appeared to reflect a deadlock between hard-liners and moderates on how to handle the economy.
A communique announced at the conclusion of a secret, six-day Central Committee meeting of nearly 600 party officials called for continued economic reform and opening to the outside. But it also stressed the importance of national self-reliance, an idea supported by party conservatives that appears to work against the strengthening of China's economic ties with the West.
The party meeting had become the focus of much attention because it was delayed for months as authorities argued over how to resolve crucial issues facing the country. The party is still clearly split on the future of Chinese socialism -- divisions that became manifest during the 1989 democracy movement when hard-liners triumphed over moderates.
The communique, the party's outline for China's eighth five-year plan, rejected the rapid reform that was launched in late 1978 by senior leader Deng Xiaoping to transform the socialized economy into one that responds to market forces, and it endorsed a call by conservatives for strengthening the inefficient, debt-ridden, state-owned sector. But it also urged an improvement in efficiency, language that suggests some real changes may be allowed.
The communique contained few surprises or initiatives. It is thought to have a more reformist tilt than earlier drafts because of reaction by provincial leaders, who were opposed to further recentralization of control by Beijing, and because of intervention from Deng and his ally, party leader Jiang Zemin, according to Western and Chinese analysts.
In many ways, the communique was more interesting for what it did not say. It failed to address unresolved political questions, chief among them the fate of ousted party secretary Zhao Ziyang. Last year, Zhao was stripped of all his posts except his party membership after he urged that moderation be used in dealing with the protesting students during the demonstrations for democracy.
Zhao, who was accused of splitting the party and supporting the protests, has been "under investigation" since June 1989, when the government ordered troops to quash the demonstrations. Earlier this year, there were reports that Zhao and Deng had met and that Zhao would be rehabilitated.
There also had been speculation that new members would be added to the ruling Politburo and party Secretariat, but none was announced. Among the likely candidates were Zou Jiahua, head of the powerful State Planning Commission; Zhu Rongji, the reformist mayor of Shanghai and widely regarded as one of the party's rising stars, and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen.
As is the case with virtually all party meetings, there was no advance word in the state-run media about where or when it would be held. One of the few indications of unusual activity last week was in western Beijing, where streams of Mercedes-Benzes and Audis with tinted windows have been leaving and entering the well-guarded gates of the military-operated Jingxi hotel.
The communique that was issued offered broad guidelines on the country's course in the 1990s. Details of the five-year economic plan are to be worked out by the State Council and then forwarded to the country's nominal legislature, the National People's Congress, for formal adoption in March.
With the economic decentralization of power away from Beijing that resulted from the last dozen years of economic reform, five-year plans no longer carry the same significance they had in the early years of Communist rule. Nevertheless, the plan is still an important document because it will serve as a framework for economic policy-making, and today's communique set the direction for the plan.
The communique listed several areas where it said structural reform was necessary, including enterprises, prices, finance, the tax system, banking, labor and wages.
One of the few statements in the communique that appeared to differ from the government's official policy said, "These reforms should center on the goal of establishing a new economic system." Some analysts said this formulation appeared new, but it was unclear what was meant by "a new economic system."
The party called for adhering to certain guiding principles, including building socialism with Chinese characteristics, continuing reform and the country's opening to the West, and promoting "socialist culture and ethics" as well as material benefits.
In a clear reference to the political and economic problems in Eastern Europe and neighboring Soviet Union, the communique said, "In the face of a complicated and ever-changing international situation, it is crucial that we manage our domestic affairs well." Chinese officials, in reiterating their belief in the superiority of a socialist system, have repeatedly said the end of communism in Eastern Europe has only brought chaos and unemployment.