SHORN of the euphemisms and circumlocutions, the thrust of Beijing's 15-year reform effort is to enshrine the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith. As the patriarch turned 89 in the summer and the succession struggle gets into high gear, however, it is the Invisible Hand of Deng Xiaoping - and dynastic politics - that seems to be guiding major political and economic decisions in the run-up to his departure. China watchers were flabbergasted by statements by President Jiang Zemin and Vice-Premier Li Lanqing that were carried in the official media earlier this week. On a de facto basis, Mr Jiang and Mr Li have proclaimed a moratorium on, if not an end to, the austerity and retrenchment programme, which was kicked off by Executive Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji a mere three months ago. Both Mr Jiang and Mr Li - who also has a major economic portfolio - rekindled the goal of ''high-speed growth'', with which the patriarch has been obsessed since the mid-1980s. The two leaders said Beijing's central objective remained ''sustained, high-speed, and healthy development.'' In a speech to the leaders of ten provinces last week, Mr Jiang repeated the rallying cry made by Mr Deng early this year: ''Seize the opportunities; speed up development; and concentrate forces to build up the economy''. This is despite the well-known fact that it was Mr Deng's refusal to acknowledge the phenomenon of the overheated economy - and his residual ''Great Leap Forward'' mentality - that contributed to dislocations like hyperinflation and speculation in the stock and property markets. The decision by various top cadres to call a moratorium on the austerity programme is doubly intriguing given the fact that most of the objectives of the 16-point campaign to ''boost macro-level adjustments and controls'' have not been met. For example, inflation in urban areas is expected to stay above 20 cent in the coming year. And after going through the motions of observing retrenchment edicts, provinces and cities with independent lines of credit like Guangdong and Shanghai have continued with their inflationary development gambits. Chinese economists fear a re-hoisting of Mr Deng's standard of fast-paced growth could trigger another round of over-ambitious projects coupled with a runaway money supply. Equally disturbing is the fact that the two-month-old anti-corruption campaign seems to be heading towards a similar denouement. At marathon anti-graft conferences and mass meetings, the leadership pledged to nail a large number of ''tigers'' - and the deadline for the announcement of the list of big-time offenders was set for later this month. Indications are, however, that after meting out death sentences to a token number of mid-echelon cadres and businessmen, the anti-graft crusade is petering out. In its National Day editorial, the People's Daily boasted that ''initial results had been achieved'' for the three major tasks of improving macro-level adjustments and control of the economy, the anti-corruption struggle, and the establishment of clean government. Why the premature end to the tackling of problems on the thorough solution of which hinges the long-term welfare of the economy - and, as Mr Deng has put it, the ''life and death of the party''? Superficially, the halfhearted efforts at both the austerity and anti-corruption campaigns could be due to massive resistance from vested interests. Mr Zhu's retrenchment programme has met with stiff opposition from the provinces, and the economic czar has failed to carry out his threat of firing those local officials who refuse to abide by his austerity targets. On the anti-corruption front, it seems a foregone conclusion the graft-fighters dare not touch state entrepreneurs who have impeccable political connections such as the offspring of party elders. A more fundamental reason, however, is that as the succession sweepstakes near their climax, the leadership as a whole lacks the political will to handle explosive or divisive issues. Moreover, rival claimants to the throne may be putting more store by political manoeuvres - specially currying favour with Mr Deng and various power blocs - than mundane considerations about inflation rates and administrative probity. For example, since Mr Jiang requires the patriarch's death-bed blessings to consolidate his status as first-among-equals in the post-Deng era, the President may feel duty-bound to dust off his mentor's ''full speed ahead'' exhortation. Chinese sources have also suggested that because Mr Zhu has made a large number of enemies thanks to his three-month-old austerity crusade, Mr Jiang, his long-time competitor, is out to pacify and win over some of the Executive Vice-Premier's foes, specially the regional chieftains. ASIDE from issues like the economy and corruption, succession imperatives are also having a major impact on ideology and foreign relations. An unfailing pattern of mainland politics is that whenever the heavens are blowing hot and cold in the Zhongnanhai party headquarters, a freeze is imposed on the expression of opinion. This, more than the party's reaction to its failed Olympics bid, is responsible for the spate of detention of dissidents and journalists in the past fortnight. Obviously, when Mr Jiang and his colleagues are preoccupied with jockeying for position, they do not want to be distracted by clamours for political liberalisation. The recent souring of relations with the Hong Kong-British administration and with the United States has also been engineered by Mr Deng's Invisible Hand. One theory doing the rounds of Beijing is that as the patriarch is reportedly lapsing into terminal senility, his position on Hong Kong and on China's ties with the West has toughened. The local pro-Chinese media have repeatedly leaked quasi-Maoist statements by the patriarch on the need to counter a new anti-Chinese containment policy waged by New York and London. And as the power struggle hots up in Zhongnanhai, no politician can afford to be seen to be ''soft'' towards a perceived foreign threat. Most important, to ensure the people's support in the wake of Mr Deng's rendezvous with Marx, the leadership wants to whip up a wave of patriotism and nationalism. And what can be more effective than raising the bogey of internal sabotage perpetrated by ''bourgeois-liberal'' dissidents and foreign threat posed by neo-imperialists?