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Newspaper Urges Bold Reforms, Deng Gathers Support

February 24, 1992

BEIJING (AP) _ The Communist Party newspaper led the national media in issuing a strong call Monday for faster and bolder economic change as China’s reformists emerge from their three-year eclipse.

The conservative People’s Daily made the call in a front-page editorial under the bold-faced headline, ″Be More Daring In Reform.″

″We need less empty talk and more practical action,″ it said. ″We will encounter many new problems. We can’t just rely on old methods, we must boldly explore.

″This requires liberating thinking, daring to rush in, daring to act, daring to do what others haven’t done.″

The editorial was published on the front page of all other major newspapers and read on radio and television, indicating special orders from the party’s top leadership to stress its message.

Top leaders have been engaged in a fierce backstage struggle over China’s future course following the collapse of socialism elsewhere in the world.

Deng Xiaoping, officially retired at 87 but still first among the party’s senior members, has argued that China’s Communist Party can stay in power only by keeping pace with the public’s rising material expectations.

While touring southern China last month, he said China must remain basically socialist but could copy some capitalist methods to achieve faster economic growth.

The People’s Daily and other Chinese media - which did not report Deng’s trip at the time - have begun to echo his message.

The conservatives have controlled the media and set the party’s public agenda since 1989, when they came to the fore to crush massive pro-democracy protests. They purged reformers, including then-party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, and halted the market-style economic reforms Deng began introducing in 1978.

Over the past year, however, it has become increasingly clear that major changes are needed to turn around the inefficient state sector. Forty percent of all state factories lost money last year, forcing the government into deficit to bail them out.

Economists recommend shutting down the worst factories, laying off poor workers and freeing factory managers from government interference - all radical moves that conservatives fear would endanger Communist Party rule.

Deng’s message was that failing to reform is more dangerous. It is still not clear whether he will prevail in the power struggle, which will climax when the party holds a national congress later in the year and elects a new policy-setting Central Committee.

The People’s Daily editorial, urging society to support and protect reformers, was a positive sign for Deng’s forces.

In another positive sign, the newspaper carried a front-page article Sunday that said China can use some capitalist methods to help it catch up with the developed world.

Other newspapers have been filled for the past month with discussions of the need to ″smash the iron rice bowl,″ or system of guaranteed lifetime employment, and make other concrete reforms in state industry.

On the other hand, conservatives still dominate the arts and literary criticism. They have led efforts to stir up nostalgia for the pre-Deng era when incomes were low but equal and when there was less official corruption.

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