INTERNATIONAL

CPC Congress heading for transition

BEIJING Nov. 13. The Communist Party of China tonight stood poised for a possible political transition at a formal ceremony scheduled for tomorrow at the Great Hall of the People here. With the 16th National Congress of the CPC today winding down its week-long deliberations, it became clear that the choices had been made.

However, the CPC let a sense of dramatic suspense prevail, in a transparent effort to sustain the mystique of the political transition in a country that had not always witnessed a smooth transfer of power from one generation to another or even from one leader to another. No formal announcements were, therefore, made, and this fuelled speculation, which was based on supposed ``inside stories'', among foreign diplomats and political analysts here. Even as sufficient hints had already been dropped by authoritative Chinese sources and others about the possibility of a generational change of leadership at the top echelons of the CPC, two issues came into prominent focus here today.

First, tomorrow's closing session of the congress might determine the fine print of a proposed amendment to the party's constitution as regards the theory of the "Three Represents'' (Three R-s). Propounded by the CPC General Secretary and China's President, Jiang Zemin, the theory defines the political complexion of the party in a manner suited to the post-modern era in international affairs, or more precisely, in a way designed to manage China's own transition towards market-oriented ``socialism'' or a form of capitalism with Chinese characteristics.

The foremost political issue is whether or not the party will associate Mr. Jiang's name with the theory if it is enshrined as a guiding norm for the rank and file. The existing philosophical guidelines for the party cadre are Marxism-Leninism as also Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory.

The second was the choice that the CPC might make to move away from gerontocracy. Widely remembered at this stage is a principle laid down by Deng, the undisputed patriarch of post-Mao politics in China, that elderly leaders should, after a certain age and in spite of their proficiencies, make way for deserving younger colleagues. It is in this context that Mr. Jiang's exit from the centre stage of the CPC is considered likely at a formal ceremony tomorrow. Except in the event of a last-minute political surprise, China's Vice-President and a prominent CPC executive, Hu Jintao, is the man most likely to succeed Mr. Jiang as the party's General Secretary. Relevant to the succession stakes is the transparent manner in which Mr. Hu has been projected by the Chinese hierarchy both within and outside the country in recent months.

It was during the final stages of the 14th National Congress of the CPC in 1992 that Deng made a dramatic appearance on stage, without a prior announcement, in a quiet but decisive endorsement of the Jiang-led team. Mr. Jiang had been nominated to the highest post in 1989 itself following the circumstances in which China resolved the "Tiananmen crisis'' during the same period. Tomorrow's closing session of the 16th National Congress is not expected to match the high and decisive drama of the 1992 session, but the CPC is determined to prove wrong the likes of Gordon Chang who has done a ``treatise'' on what he sees as the coming collapse of communism and its state apparatus in China. Though formal elections will be held tomorrow, the presidium of the 16th National Congress of the CPC today chose, through a process of voting by a show of hands, members and alternate members of a new Central Committee.

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