'THE revolution has not yet succeeded; Comrades, we need to work harder!' The words of Dr Sun Yat-sen, the founder of modern China, have a strange resonance as China steps more firmly into the post-Deng Xiaoping era in 1995. The question of the direction of the 'Chinese revolution' - at least in the philosophical realm - was posed with poignancy by elder Bo Yibo, born three years before Dr Sun put an end to the Qing Dynasty in 1911. At a conference on Deng Thought and socialism with Chinese characteristics early this month, Mr Bo, a former vice-premier, cast his gaze at the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) 74-year-old effort to graft socialism on to Chinese soil to better fulfil the country's perennial dream of fuqiang - 'prosperity and strength'. In a speech to the conference released last week, Mr Bo considered the 'immortal' closest to Mr Deng, quoted the patriarch's words of wisdom. 'We will never make it if we just copy the experience and models of other countries,' Mr Deng indicated in the 1930s arguing why China should not be a clone of the Soviet Union. Then there was this little-known remark by Mr Deng in the 1950s: 'From the point of view of the entire party, our knowledge [about Chinese socialism] is very insufficient. 'On socialist construction, we still have a large measure of blindness. For us, there are many kingdoms of necessities that we have not discovered in socialist economics.' The 'necessary kingdoms' refer to laws, practices and systems that China must adopt and implement to mesh the alien creed of Marxism-Leninism with its quasi-feudalist tradition. Alas, the putative Chief Architect of Reform did not seem to have solved the riddles even all the way through the 1980s. Speaking to aides and foreign dignitaries alike, the patriarch admitted that the contours of 'Chinese-style socialism' had become murkier. 'We were not sure as to what socialism was about,' Mr Deng told an African leader in the mid-1980s, referring to the 'leftist' mistakes made by Chairman Mao and Co. in the 1960s and 1970s. The only concrete thing that the New Helmsman had to offer, however, was: 'Socialism is not poverty.' Other reformist lieutenants under Mr Deng were hardly more innovative. The late party General Secretary Hu Yaobang's attempts at 'thought liberation' did not go much beyond his now-famous remark at the grave of Marx in late 1985: 'Marxism cannot solve all the problems of today.' Mr Hu's successor, former party chief Zhao Ziyang, who was less of an ideologue, tackled the problem by largely skirting it. 'For me, socialism is nothing more than [overall] state ownership of the means of production and rewards [to citizens] being distributed in accordance with [the quality of] labour [contributed by each individual],' Mr Zhao said in private, hinting that he would rather steer clear of the theoretical constraints of socialism. The explorations of Messrs Deng, Hu and Zhao were crystallised in the document endorsed by the 13th Party Congress of 1987, perhaps the zenith of the CCP's decades-old soul-searching. The Congress conceded that China was still at a 'preliminary stage of socialism'. It then urged, like Dr Sun, that comrades should persevere in both the theory and practice of reform, the 'revolution' of the day. In spite of the beliefs of many that by 1995 the Middle Kingdom is poised to acquire membership of the 'developed world', the questions posed by Mr Deng or Mr Hu have remained daunting. Alas, they also risk becoming obsolete: The CCP is being overtaken by events and their 'revolution' stolen away from them. The fuqiang that China has amassed since the Tiananmen Square crackdown has come about despite - not because of - 'Chinese-style socialism'. This wealth and vigour is predicated upon the Chinese going one better than Mr Zhao in exercising a collective amnesia: forget about socialism - be it Soviet-or Chinese-style - and just get rich. The questions confronting the post-Deng republic are those of the primitive, Dickensian phase of capitalism: how to lay down the rules of the game whereby each individual and enterprise can compete on a level playing field. The problem for the party has become not so much showing the country the way to fuqiang but not being left behind: how to stay - and to be seen as - relevant in the wake of the widespread perception even among the 54 million CCP members that socialism and party interference have become a millstone around the neck of progress. The party is aware of this twin crisis of ideology and legitimacy. While panic-stricken, however, the post-Deng leadership with President Jiang Zemin as its core has refused to perform radical surgery on Chinese-style socialism as well as the party's mind-set. The crisis mentality has manifested itself in the hundreds of conferences on Deng Thought over the past year, which culminated in the Bo Yibo seminar. The last two months have also seen an unprecedented number of national conferences on the economy, security, foreign affairs, propaganda, organisation and party construction, the dominant theme of all of which has been how to use Deng Thought to save the day. What even such an open-minded elder as Mr Bo has failed to own up to is that Mr Deng had largely halted his 'thought liberation' after the student demonstrations of December 1986, seen as a precursor of the 1989 democracy movement. From 1987 onwards, Mr Deng stopped exploring conundrums like the role of the party in an increasingly pluralistic society and business world; he began lecturing Chinese and foreigners on the 'absolute necessity' of stale Marxist concepts such as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Thus, the patriarch harked back to the self-righteous themes of the 1920s, telling former American Secretary of State George Shultz in 1987: 'Only the socialist system can fundamentally solve the problem of poverty. That's why we cannot tolerate people who oppose socialism . . . Socialist construction is impossible without CCP leadership.' Apart from beating up Deng Thought in a pathetic bid to keep the demons of the 21st century at bay, the Jiang leadership is doing little more than tinkering with the 74-year-old party orthodoxy. Hence the curious campaign Mr Jiang unleashed last week to propagate 'soft science', a Chinese concept for 'rendering decision-making scientific and democratic'. Soft science combines such disciplines as cybernetics, computer science, statistics, psychology and public administration to help leaders with policy and implementation. Over 28,000 researchers are toiling in more than 1,000 soft-science think-tanks nationwide. As State Councillor Song Jian put it last Saturday: 'Soft science helps to establish in the entire society a concept of democratic and scientific decision-making. It will push the Chinese race forward from a kingdom of necessity to a kingdom of liberty.' But how can science, democracy, and fuqiang take flight under a party whose raison d'etre is a revolution that never was?