Congress Ends With Outright Win for Jiang

BEIJING -- In a clear victory for China's President Jiang Zemin, a Communist Party congress that ended Thursday endorsed his plans to dismantle large chunks of state industry and sidelined his main political rivals.

By a unanimous show of hands in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, the 2,074 delegates to the 15th Party Congress enshrined the capitalist-style theories of former paramount leader Deng Xioping in the party's constitution.

They approved Jiang's report to the congress that set out far-reaching plans to sell government-run enterprises and let others sink or swim in a "survival of the fittest" struggle.

A new Central Committee elected at the Party Congress, which meets once every five years, did not include Qiao Shi, the 72-year-old chairman of China's parliament who is regarded as Jiang's chief opponent.

Also dumped were General Liu Huaqing, like Qiao a member of the all-powerful politburo standing committee, and Yang Baibing, a member of the Politburo who led an abortive power play in 1992 and has been a lame duck ever since.

All three will automatically lose their seats in the Politburo, whose members will be elected from the ranks of the Central Committee at a plenary session that began immediately after the congress ended.

The official explanation was that they had been retired on grounds of old age.

But Western diplomats said their abrupt departures were orchestrated by Jiang, and indicated he had consolidated his grip on power since the death last February of his mentor Deng.

"I declare the 15th Party Congress victoriously over," pronounced Jiang, the party general secretary, amid the fading strains of the Communist anthem, the Internationale, played by a military brass band.

Jiang's moves to rid the state of the crippling burden of money-losing state enterprises won instant plaudits from an International Monetary Fund meeting in Hong Kong.

"They are just putting the finger on what must be one of the essential challenges in the next few years, namely the transformation of state enterprises into efficient enterprises," said IMF managing director Michel Camdessus.

Jiang's reform blueprint presented at the opening day of the congress last Friday paves the way for mass sell-offs, mergers and bankruptcies among state enterprises. More will be listed on stock markets in China and Hong Kong.

Some 370,000 government-run companies have become a huge drain on government coffers and threaten financial instability.

Qiao sat to Jiang's immediate right in the leadership line-up on a raised dais at the front of a flower-decked stage in the cavernous Great Hall of the People.

To Jiang's left was Premier Li Peng, who is widely tipped to replace Qiao as head of the National People's Congress after his term ends next March.

A red ballot box emblazoned with the Communist Party's hammer and sickle emblem stood in front of Jiang, and two others were perched in the stage wings.

State television showed a smiling Li, and a stony-faced Qiao, casting their ballots for the Central Committee, which was enlarged to 193 members from 189. The new body included a number of fresh faces from Jiang's power base of Shanghai, and the average age dropped slightly to 55.9 from 56.3.

Jiang lauded the incoming body as "another step forward toward revolutionizing, rejuvenating ... and professionalizing the party's central leadership." He now holds the top jobs in the party, government and military.

"Deng Xiaoping Theory," a code for pragmatic, market-orientated reforms, was set on a pedestal alongside "Mao Zedong Thought" in the Communist Party canon.

Delegates also elected 151 alternate Central Committee members and a 115-member Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which polices party members and previously had 108 members.