Zhu Rongji
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Factional strife puts congress at risk

Zhu Rongji

CONTROVERSY on personnel and economic issues has complicated preparations for the National People's Congress and aggravated factional strife within the Communist Party.

Chinese sources said although the broad outlines for the congress, which will be convened in late March, were set at the 14th Party Congress last October, there could be changes ''at the 11th hour''.

According to what the sources called a ''rough consensus'' at the 14th Congress, party chief Mr Jiang Zemin would be given the position of state president, succeeding Mr Yang Shangkun.

And premier Mr Li Peng would be given another term as head of the State Council.

In recent speeches, patriarch Mr Deng Xiaoping has sought to bolster the status of Mr Jiang, saying he was a ''trustworthy core'' of the collective leadership.

Many senior cadres, including the party elders, however, have expressed reservations about Mr Jiang holding too many positions.

In the past month, Mr Li has taken advantage of the need to use ''macro-level mechanisms'' to cool down the economy to reassert his authority.

According to the latest issue of the Chinese-affiliated journal The Mirror, Mr Li himself was ''not keen'' on another term as head of government.

''If I am allowed to continue being premier, I'll do my best,'' Mr Li reportedly said.

''If not, I won't have any [dissenting] views''.

The Mirror said there was a possibility the reformist Vice-premier, Mr Zhu Rongji, would succeed Mr Li as premier.

''Only when Zhu Rongji becomes premier can he implement his own policies'', the journal said.

''If Zhu remains Li Peng's deputy, it is possible that neither Zhu nor Li can accomplish much.'' Analysts in Beijing said one way to solve the controversy was to appoint Mr Li as state president with major responsibility for foreign affairs.

The debate on economic policy is focused on the growth rate - and on which sectors will get priority for development.

The Mirror said it was likely the congress would recommend that the GNP grow by eight per cent this year.

But economists in Beijing said yesterday in view of Mr Deng's speech in Shanghai last week, in which he urged the city ''not to let the opportunity slip'', deputies from the coastal provinces would lobby for a rate of 10 per cent or more.

An informed source said in view of the broad consensus to cool down the overheated economy, the congress would not recommend fast-paced expansion for areas including real estate, stock companies, and new development zones.

In recent speeches, Mr Deng had dwelled at length on agriculture, warning that ''if the economy were to develop any problem in the 1990s, it could well be agriculture''.

''The congress may recommend that priority be given to 'traditional areas' like agriculture, energy, communications, and the rejuvenation of state enterprises'', the source said.

''It may also warn local leaders against disobeying central edicts on controlling the pace of growth.'' In a recent speech, Mr Zhu indicated that high-speed development must be based on ''high quality, high efficiency, and an industrial structure based on exports''.