THE Chinese Communist Party has tried to salvage its legitimacy by saying a policy should be carried out only if it has the support of the people. This remarkable effort to revive political reform, which is believed to bear patriarch Deng Xiaoping's imprimatur, was in a front-page commentary in the People's Daily yesterday. While explaining the essence of Mr Deng's Selected Works, a new edition of which was issued last week, the commentator pointed out that the 90-year-old's reform effort consisted of heeding 'the interests and wishes of the broad masses'. The party mouthpiece indicated that for Mr Deng 'the point of departure and ultimate consideration for formulating various goals and policies are whether the people support them; whether they agree with and are happy with them; and whether they have given them the nod'. Political analysts in Beijing said this was the most radical statement of political reform issued by the party since the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen massacre. They said the commentary had been approved by the ruling politburo and the household of Mr Deng. The analysts pointed out that the 'populist criterion' advocated by the Daily had gone further than the criteria Mr Deng cited for evaluating policies when he embarked on the watershed tour of Guangdong in 1992. At that time, the patriarch raised eyebrows among the conservative elements of the party by contending that the sole criteria for assessing a policy was 'whether it expedited economic growth, promoted productivity and boosted the comprehensive strength of the nation'. While Mr Deng's speeches in Guangdong were credited with unleashing a 'second wave of reform', he made no reference to the need for the party to secure the support of the people. Sources close to the Deng household said that in spite of his declining health, the patriarch had from the beginning of this year given 'repeated instructions' on political modernisation. His statements this year, however, had not gone beyond hackneyed concepts such as curbing corruption and promoting consultation with the nation's eight 'democratic parties'. The sources said that the populist twist that the Daily had yesterday given to Deng Thought represented a new effort by the senior leader to shore up the party's legitimacy by playing the 'people's card'. The Daily also admon-ished all cadres to 'make it clear what socialism is and how to build up and develop socialism'. It is understood that this was a reference to Mr Deng's dictum that 'socialism with Chinese characteristics' means socialism that has popular appeal and that can boost living standards. Meanwhile, National People's Congress Chairman Qiao Shi, who is touring Australia, made a call for 'perfecting socialist democracy and the socialist legal system'. In talks with his hosts, Mr Qiao, a leader of the Communist Party's moderate wing, underscored the importance of developing Mr Deng's thoughts about 'perfecting a society that is bound by a legal system'. 'Deng Xiaoping has clearly raised the point about developing socialist democracy,' the semi-official China News Service last night quoted Mr Qiao as saying. 'This requires the perfection of a socialist legal system, so that democracy can be legalised and systemised. Moreover, this system should not change with the change of leaders or with the change of the leaders' will and focus.' Political sources in Beijing said that the speech of Mr Qiao, who is considered a 'dark horse candidate' to succeed Mr Deng, reflected recent internal pronouncements by the patriarch.