THE reiteration of a credit-tightening policy by Chinese Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji underscores Beijing's fears that inflation might be out of control, according to Hong Kong analysts. They said Mr Zhu's remarks essentially contained nothing new, but were significant in the wake of inflation showing signs of rebounding in the past eight weeks. They feared that he would face a bumpy year. Mr Zhu's remarks also cleared up confusion among foreign analysts over whether his 16-point austerity programme had actually ended following Deng Xiaoping's call in November to speed up growth. ''It is an indication that the focus of the central Government is increasingly on practical problems,'' said MeesPierson Securities (Asia) regional economist Antony Chan, referring to concerns over rising inflation and an overheating economy. Sun Hung Kai Investment Service director B.Y. Wong saw the reminder as ''a strong warning'' to ''keep Chinese bankers in line with discipline, not to screw up the whole thing''. Hongkong Bank China Services manager Benny Chiu said: ''Essentially, it contains nothing new . . . Zhu has never said he will give up the austerity programme which was launched in July.'' Still, the latest move reflected Beijing's strong commitment to curb the rekindled inflation, which prompted many Chinese to stock up grain and consumer electrical appliances late last year as well as gold and consumer items early this month. Mr Zhu told bankers at a four-day national finance conference, which ended on Sunday in Beijing, that restrictions on bank lending imposed last year were still in place. The Vice-Premier and the central bank chief emphasised the need for controls on bank credits, limits on loans for fixed-asset investment, and restrictions on state bank lending. Mr Chiu said China's national retail inflation rate peaked at 15.1 per cent in August, easing to about 14.5 per cent in the next two months. However, the widely used inflation gauge picked up again to above 15 per cent in November. Mr Chan also pointed to other indicators which showed signs of the worrying trend, including a strong rebound in industrial production in the last quarter, a pick-up of the inflation rate in major cities and a widening current account deficit. The single exchange rate system introduced on January 1 effectively devalued the yuan, which would exacerbate inflation, he added. ''There is a high chance of a renewed boom in China in the next three to six months,'' Mr Chan said. There was no official announcement of a demise of the austerity programme, but when Mr Deng called for faster economic growth after the third plenum of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee in mid-November, some analysts interpreted that as anend to the clampdown. The confusion was aggravated by signs that the central bank was relaxing credit for major infrastructure projects, which were not supposed to be hit in the first place. Mr Wong asserted that Mr Zhu was ''applying an automatic braking system'' on China's economy to prevent it from losing control. He described the tactics as ''a stop-go-stop-go policy''. He said administrative force was needed while the mainland was in transformation from a command economy to a market economy. Although he expected the inflation rate in major cities to continue to slow this year, the question was whether it was in the upper or lower limits of 13 to 19 per cent. An analyst with an overseas securities house said the speech by Mr Zhu had ''less substance'' compared with the one delivered in July. She doubted whether the measures would be effective and expected Beijing to introduce tighter measures again to rein in the economy.