VICE-PREMIER Zhu Rongji has made a spirited defence against accusations that he has ''revived central planning''. At a State Council meeting on improving the distribution of raw materials for farmers, Mr Zhu indicated that it was the Government's responsibility to keep their prices down. The Vice-Premier, who had personally done research on the problem, said it was ''absolutely necessary'' to depress the prices of fertilisers and other raw materials by cutting the number of middlemen. ''We must boost macro-level adjustments and controls as well as market regulations [over the circulation of raw materials],'' the semi-official China News Service quoted Mr Zhu as saying. ''We must organise a balanced supply, curtail the layers of circulation, and rectify the order of distribution.'' The Vice-Premier said manufacturers of fertilisers and other raw materials had boosted their production capacities and fresh orders from abroad had arrived. He ordered wholesalers and retailers of fertilisers to cut down their prices ''within a specific time''. ''Practice in developed countries has shown that they do not just let the market have free rein and adopt a total hands-off policy towards prices,'' CNS quoted Mr Zhu as saying. ''We cannot regard efforts by the Government to regulate the market and to supervise prices as 'restoring the planned economy'.'' Since taking charge of the campaign to ''cure and rectify the economy'' in mid-1993, Mr Zhu has come under severe attack by entrepreneurs, regional cadres, and liberal scholars for reviving Stalinist planning. It is expected that the Communist Party Central Committee and State Council will soon issue a document on measures to ensure the efficient distribution of raw materials, which will hopefully cut down the costs of farmers. Because of spiralling costs, many farmers have gone into industry and commerce, thus threatening Beijing's effort to reinstate the policy of ''taking grain as the key link''.