THE Chinese Communist Party is holding a national conference on propaganda to lay down policies on ideology, culture and the media in the post-Deng Xiaoping era. The four-day conclave, which opened in Beijing yesterday, is expected to endorse measures to tighten the party's grip on ideological and propaganda issues. Chinese sources said yesterday the conclave, at which the head of the Propaganda Department Ding Guan'gen would preside, would highlight patriarch Deng Xiaoping's ''double-handed'' policy of liberalising the economy while imposing a straitjacket on matters relating to ''spiritual civilisation''. Party chief and President Jiang Zemin will address the conference, which is being attended by cadres in propaganda, media and cultural units nationwide. The sources said Mr Jiang would repeat his dictum that the ''main theme'' for work in ideology and propaganda in the new era was to propagate ''patriotism, socialism and collectivism''. They said the conference, the largest of its kind since 1957, would lay the framework for ''the construction of spiritual civilisation'' through the 1990s. Five major propaganda units - the national news agencies, the Press and Publication Administration, the television and broadcasts system, the Culture Ministry, and departments responsible for overseas propaganda - would be holding conferences in Beijing at the same time. The pro-Chinese Hong Kong daily, Wen Wei Po, reported yesterday that the major task of the propaganda conference was to ''study and plan how to further liberate one's thoughts and to expand work in news, culture, broadcasts, television, publication and overseas propaganda under the conditions of constructing a socialist market economy''. Another key concern for the nation's ideological and propaganda cadres, according to Beijing's intellectuals, was to preserve stability and adherence to party leadership in the post-Deng era. The intellectuals said the party's control over areas including publication, the media and cultural performances had tightened since mid-1993. ''The party fears that if control over ideology and propaganda is loosened, it will be hard put to ensure stability after Deng's death,'' a Beijing-based editor said. He added that during the pro-democracy movement in 1989, cultural and media units in different cities had expressed sympathy and support for political liberalisation. Western diplomats in Beijing said in the interest of ''stability'', moderate leaders like Mr Jiang and Mr Deng had agreed to let conservatives and remnant Maoists dominate key units including the Propaganda Department and the Ministry of Radio, Film and Television. This is despite Mr Deng's well-known dictum that the main task for the party is to fight leftism, or remnant Maoism.