CHINESE Executive Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji has put together a high-level think-tank to consolidate his power in the run-up to the death of patriarch Deng Xiaoping. The brains trust, which consists of the cream of China's social scientists and economic cadres, is responsible for drafting the next round of market reforms while boosting the leverage of the central authorities. Meanwhile, more signs have emerged that to conciliate powerful regional officials, the leadership has temporarily suspended many aspects of the three-month-old austerity programme. Sources said yesterday that Mr Zhu had assembled a high-calibre think-tank which included reform-minded officials and academics who had worked for ousted party chief Zhao Ziyang. The sources identified four rising stars as having recently advised Mr Zhu on how to push forward reforms while reversing the trend of the central Government losing economic powers and revenue. They were Lou Jiwei, a member of Mr Zhu's personal office; Li Jiange, an economist with the Development Research Centre of the State Council; Guo Shuqing, a former associate of the Economic Research Centre of the State Planning Commission; and Lu Xiaoling, a former staffer of the national paper Jinrong Times. Mr Lou, considered one of Mr Zhu's right-hand men, has worked in the State Commission for the Reform of the Economic Structure, which was once headed by Mr Zhao. He was a vice-chief of Shanghai's Bureau for Re-structuring the Economy when Mr Zhu was mayor of the city, and subsequently transferred back to the capital following his mentor's promotion to Vice-Premier in 1991. Other members of Mr Zhu's personal brains trust are drawn from units like the Economic and Trade Commission, the People's Bank of China, and Qinghua University, where the Vice-Premier once taught management. ''Most members of Zhu's think-tank are economists in their early 40s who had been active in helping Zhao work out the initial stage of reform,'' a source said. ''However, in view of severe economic problems like hyperinflation and loss of central powers, their priority now is how to balance reform with recentralisation''. Western diplomats said that in spite of his apparent return to the limelight, Premier Li Peng had been unable to claw back economic decision-making powers lost to Mr Zhu. They said if Mr Zhu succeeded in ''curing and restructuring'' the economy, he had a good chance of gaining the premiership after Mr Deng left the scene completely. But economic analysts in Beijing said Mr Zhu's standing might have been hurt by his having been obliged to call a temporary moratorium to the austerity programme. Speaking to a group of entrepreneurs in Beijing yesterday, Vice-Premier Zou Jiahua said there was no foundation to the fear that China would adopt another round of ''curing and restructuring the economy'' or ''comprehensive retrenchment''. Taking the same line as President Jiang Zemin and Vice-Premier Li Lanqing, Mr Zou said China's economic goal remained ''sustained, high-speed and healthy economic development''. ''We have adopted measures to strengthen and improve macro-level economic adjustments and controls . . . to enable the economy to develop more healthily,'' Mr Zou said. ''China being a developing country, many sectors and regions require speeded-up development.'' The national media yesterday quoted Mr Zou as repeating Mr Deng's nine-month-old injunction to Shanghai to ''have a facelift once every year'' and ''to cross one new threshold after another''. The Vice-Premier, seen as one of Mr Zhu's competitors, said the ''goal of strengthening macro-level adjustments and control is to ensure the sustained, speedy and healthy progress'' of the economy. Mr Deng's obsession with high-speed development is a major reason behind the overheating of the economy, which persuaded the leadership to launch the austerity programme in early July.