Young officials lead Shenzhen reform drive

A NEW breed of young cadres in Shenzhen is spearheading the drive to implement bolder reforms in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

These officials, who are in their 30s and 40s, are saying that unless the SEZ is given more powers to integrate itself with Western economies, it will lose out in the cut-throat competition with the scores of open cities and development zones in other parts of the country.

Sources in the SEZ said local officials were taking advantage of the imminent anniversary of the tour of patriarch Mr Deng Xiaoping to demand a larger say in finance, foreign trade and administrative reform.

They said the drive to preserve Shenzhen's status as a pioneer in reform was led by a group of young officials who held mid-to high-level ranks in the municipal party committee and government.

By contrast, top cadres such as the party secretary Mr Li Hao, and the mayor, Mr Li Youwei, are said to be too cautious and too beholden to the central authorities to aggressively lobby for autonomy.

On Wednesday, the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily ran a front-page article on ''the year that [comrade] Xiaoping went south''.

The official paper concluded that ''Shenzhen still needs a major thought liberation [movement]''.

The Daily also ran an interview with a representative of the new breed of officials, Mr Ren Kelei, who is secretary-general of the municipal party committee.

Mr Ren said the city must make use of its ''sense of crisis and urgency'' to implement bolder reforms.

''If our government and enterprises do not put their priority on - and devote their energy to - further deepening reform, Shenzhen can no longer remain the country's pacesetter in the 1990s,'' Mr Ren said.

Mr Ren, the son of the former party boss of Guangdong, Mr Ren Zhongyi, a noted reformist, is tipped for promotion to either vice-mayor or vice-party secretary of the SEZ.

Mr Ren's brother, Mr Ren Kening, is also active in politics. He is the vice-party secretary of the management committee of the Hengqin Economic Development Zone of Zhuhai Special Economic Zone.

Other ''young turks'' in Shenzhen include the director of the municipal Committee for Re-Structuring the Economy, Mr Xu Jing'an and the secretary-general of the municipal government, Mr Li Luoli.

In the mid-1980s, Mr Xu and Mr Li Luoli were advisers to officials close to ousted party chief Mr Zhao Ziyang.