A PROTEGE of ousted party chief Mr Zhao Ziyang has been named governor of Sichuan, China's largest province. Mr Xiao Yang, 63, vice-governor of the province, was yesterday elected to the post at the provincial people's congress with a high vote of 888. Mr Xiao, also a protege of patriarch Mr Deng Xiaoping, said last night he would expedite economic development of the province through aggressively seeking foreign investment. ''We must quicken Sichuan's reform and open door policy so that the home province of Deng Xiaoping can be well developed,'' he told local reporters. Mr Xiao revealed that he recently had ''many contacts'' with Hongkong tycoon Mr Li Ka-shing and Taiwan's ''plastics king'', Mr Wang Yung-ching. The China News Service quoted Mr Xiao as saying he was also discussing business with the Heung brothers of Hongkong's film industry. ''Lack of funds is a major impediment for Sichuan's progress,'' Mr Xiao said. ''We must on the one hand grasp national currency - the renminbi - and on the other, foreign currencies.'' ''I will not let down the 110 million residents of Sichuan,'' he added. ''I shall promote the economy of the province and ensure the happiness of its people.'' Political sources said Mr Xiao, who has a reputation for radical reforms, was a front-runner to succeed the retiring party secretary of Sichuan, Mr Yang Rudai, who had also been a Politburo member. Following the sudden death last week of Tianjin party secretary and Politburo member Mr Tan Shaowen, Mr Xiao is also a candidate for the supreme policy-setting council. At the 14th party congress in October last year, Mr Xiao missed being elected to the Central Committee - and the Politburo. Instead, he became the alternate member of the Central Committee with the least number of votes. Sources in Sichuan said Mr Xiao, at that time the party chief of Chongqing, was the victim of ''sabotage'' by congress delegates from the provincial capital of Chengdu. Apart from the traditional rivalry between Chongqing and Chengdu, Mr Xiao's avant-garde policies and image have raised eyebrows among cadres in the conservative province. Soon after the congress, however, Mr Deng used his influence to have Mr Xiao promoted to vice-governor of Sichuan, the patriarch's home province. Analysts said Mr Xiao's promotion to the top government position of Sichuan yesterday was a sign that the patriarch was able to surmount obstacles to the elevation of his liberal proteges. Analysts said Mr Xiao could replace Mr Yang, also an associate of Mr Zhao, at the next provincial party congress. The former party chief of Chongqing is credited with such innovations as turning state companies into stock concerns and running government enterprises along Western management lines. Mr Xiao is among a number of former associates of Mr Zhao who had recently been elevated to leadership positions at the provincial and municipal level. Mr Xiao first made a name for himself in the late 1970s when he liberalised the foreign trade system for Beijing. The Sichuan native graduated from the elite Qinghua University and trained in a technical institute in East Germany from 1954 to 1956.