Bureaucrats take charge of project

SOVIET-EDUCATED bureaucrats dominate the management team for the construction of the gigantic Three Gorges hydroelectricity project in central China.

In addition to a full line-up of leading officials, state-run agencies yesterday reported the appointment of Gansu governor Mr Jia Zhijie to succeed Mr Guo Shuyan as the governor of Hubei, one of the two provinces most affected by the project.

Going against popular expectation, hardline Maoist and former Beijing party secretary Mr Li Ximing, who was closely linked with the June 4 military crackdown, was not included in the latest line-up.

According to the reports, Prime Minister Mr Li Peng, who studied electrical engineering in the former Soviet Union, will be the chief commander of the Three Gorges Construction Committee (TGCC).

He will be assisted by two other Soviet-educated central planners, Vice-Premier Mr Zou Jiahua and Mr Guo, currently Vice-Minister of State Planning.

Mr Guo, who was voted down by local deputies in last month's provincial election, would be responsible for the daily operation of the project, the reports said.

Two technocrats with long experience within the central government - State Councillor Mr Chen Junsheng and a former vice-minister of water conservancy, Mr Li Boing - were also named deputy directors of the construction committee.

The only reformist appointed to the committee was the newly elected governor of Sichuan, Mr Xiao Yang, apparently because Sichuan - China's most populous province - will have to be significantly involved in the construction project.

Mr Jia was not chosen to join the committee.

Ms Qian Zhenying, a veteran hydroelectricity expert and a vice-chairman of the advisory Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was made an adviser to the committee.

Chinese sources said the formal formation of the TGCC was likely to help Prime Minister Mr Li to win a second term in the National People's Congress next month.

Another candidate slotted for a job was said to be Vice-Premier Mr Zhu Rongji, who is credited with revitalising the economy after a three-year retrenchment programme started in 1989.

Chinese sources said that while there was relatively strong backing for Mr Li within the State Council, Mr Zhu was favoured by patriarch Mr Deng Xiaoping, who still had the final say in major personnel matters.

Mr Zhu's ascendancy was also evident in a report by the pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po over the weekend, which praised the economic czar for his ''honesty'' and ''determination to crack down on corruption''.

It quoted the vice-premier as saying at a recent meeting with Beijing cadres that government officials must set an example as the authorities launched an anti-corruption drive.

According to Wen Wei Po, Mr Zhu said communist cadres must stick to their principles and be honest.

''Honesty is a moral standard of the old feudal world. If we communists can't even measure up to that standard, then where is our party ethic?'' Sources in Beijing said that, depending on Mr Deng's strength and resolve, Mr Zhu might edge out Mr Li after last-minute horse-trading at the coming congress.