A FEROCIOUS factional struggle has underpinned the celebrations of the Mao centenary, with the Deng Xiaoping faction gaining the upper hand. For the party's conservative wing, the Mao-related festivities are a god-sent opportunity to fly the flag of orthodox Marxism. The theme of galas and academic conferences organised by the remnant Maoists is that Mao's teachings remain the guiding principle for the nation, and that Mr Deng ideas are but offshoots of Mao Thought. The central leadership, however, has decided that in the media and public functions, a 60-40 split be observed between efforts to glorify the achievements of Mr Deng and those of the Great Helmsman. The ruling faction in the party has made the point that the best way to celebrate Mao is to implement the edicts of Mr Deng, which have lifted Mao Thought to a higher plane. Such an emphasis has aroused resentment in pockets of Maoism, including Hunan and Hubei provinces. Indeed, even the average cadre feels confused about seeking the right balance between the Mao and the Deng campaigns. The Central Committee has issued numerous documents to units nationwide on the ''diligent study'' of the Third Volume of Mr Deng's Selected Works, published last November. To prevent the Mao festivities from upstaging the campaign to learn from Mr Deng, many cadres organising the former decided to concentrate on the less controversial aspects of Mao's achievements. For example, quite a number of the celebrations and academic conferences on Mao Thought played up non-contentious issues, such as Mao's contributions to winning the war against the Japanese or the Kuomintang. They have steered clear of weightier questions like the late chairman's historical standing or the assessment of the ''correctness'' of Mao Thought. Moreover, a number of publications concentrated on the younger days of the Great Helmsman. For most officials, to highlight the aberrations of Mao, such as his errors during the Cultural Revolution, would dampen the enthusiasm of the centenary festivities. Yet to emphasise his ''lasting contributions to socialism'' would jar with the eulogies which are being heaped on Mr Deng and Deng Thought. Intellectuals in Beijing think this could be the very last time that Mao receives so much attention in the media. After all, Deng Thought has on a de facto basis replaced Mao Thought as the national creed. The watershed Third Plenum of the 14th Central Committee in November made it very clear that it was Mr Deng's reformist ideas that would guide the construction of China's socialist market economy. Mr Wang is a Marxist scholar at a mainland university.