Zhu Rongji
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Cadres warned of 'abuse'

Zhu Rongji

ECONOMIC czar Mr Zhu Rongji warned regional cadres not to take advantage of Beijing's determination to implement its enterprise reform programme.

The Vice-Premier, who was given effective control of running the country's economy last October, said in an economic reform conference that Beijing would not grant ''blanket approval'' on foreign trade and finance to all enterprises.

Mr Zhu, who also heads the powerful Economic and Trade Office under the State Council, said that he did not think China's reform record of the past year was remarkable.

Compared with national growth rate, China had not achieved a breakthrough in reforms last year, Mr Zhu was quoted in the pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po.

His blunt remarks contradicted an official report by the New China News Agency which used figures provided by the same conference to say China had ''achieved remarkable progress'' last year.

According to the daily's report, Mr Zhu made clear that Beijing was concerned about abuse of power by economic officials who used their personal relations with retired officials as Beijing relaxed control of enterprises.

He termed the malpractice ''using power to disguise itself as a business''.

He said Beijing would not grant ''blanket approval'' to conduct banking and trading business. That would lead to chaos in the international and domestic markets, he said.

He effectively closed the door on thousands of enterprise managers who have asked for the same privilege enjoyed by the Capital Steel Corporation in Beijing.

Capital Steel was the only conglomerate in China authorised to open its own banks and trading units after patriarch Mr Deng Xiaoping visited early last year.

However, Mr Zhu also stated in his speech that economic cadres must be ''bold in abandoning their old ways'' and ''adopt new methods in reform''.

Mr Zhu's remarks were backed by party elder Mr Wan Li yesterday who told the visiting Mr Ure Mihailovich Voronin, vice-chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet, that China had to try new tactics in its reform drive.

''We will bravely do whatever people support,'' said Mr Wan. ''The criterion for judging truth is practice.'' Mr Wan, chairman of the National People's Congress, defended the argument that China's economic reform was too slow.

''Development demands certain speed,'' he said.

The remarks by Mr Zhu and Mr Wan both differed significantly from the views of the Communist Party General-Secretary Mr Jiang Zemin and premier Mr Li Peng.

At the closing session of the economic reform conference, Mr Li highlighted the significance of ''reforming the existing system'' instead of breaking new grounds.

In a talk on the economy last month, Mr Jiang stressed the importance of maintaining ''stability'' in China.