Call to follow Deng Thought

A FAST-RISING star in the politburo has called for total commitment to Deng Xiaoping Thought and to ''the creation of new experience''.

In a speech in Beijing yesterday, Mr Wei Jianxing indicated that in tandem with economic reform, the authorities must give priority to ''party construction'', or boosting the strength and combat-readiness of Chinese Communist Party cells and other organisations.

However, in his first major speech after his elevation to the politburo, Mr Wei steered clear of such orthodox concerns and expressions as ''fighting bourgeois liberalisation'' or ''combatting peaceful evolution''.

In a bold departure from tradition, Mr Wei, who is also head of the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection, did not mention the Four Cardinal Principles of the socialist road and Marxism-Leninism and Maoism.

''We must insist on the guidance of the theories of Deng Xiaoping on building socialism with Chinese characteristics,'' the New China News Agency quoted Mr Wei as saying.

Party members should boost the ''core status'' of the party in all national endeavours.

Aside from fighting corruption and improving relations with the masses, Mr Wei said party construction should be based on ''integration with new situations, studying new problems and creating new experience''.

He called on party cadres to ''liberate their thoughts'' and to value ''scientific and democratic decision-making''.

Chinese sources who know Mr Wei, usually considered a conservative, said yesterday they were surprised by the reformist nature of his speech.

''Wei has on a de facto basis replaced the Four Cardinal Principles with Deng Xiaoping Thought,'' a source said.

''While he emphasises boosting the role of the party, he says this will be done through innovations and experiments.'' However, analysts said Mr Wei also highlighted the conservative message that for the party and socialism to survive, the authorities had to augment control over both party and non-party affairs.

They said the party was buffeted on two fronts: commercialism and centrifugalism.

For example, the pro-Beijing Hongkong paper, the New Evening Post, reported yesterday that even party schools, or ideological training institutions, had set up businesses in areas such as publishing, advertising and trading.

Chinese sources said the senior leadership was ''extremely worried'' that officially sponsored candidates for governors and mayors in several provinces and cities had been thrown out by the voters.

The meeting on party construction at which Mr Wei delivered his address was hosted by Communist Party departments as well as the General Political Department of the army, a sign that military and civilian units were tackling disciplinary problems together.