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Reports of Peasants' Wealth Are 'Divorced From Reality' : China Critic Takes Leaders to Task

September 24, 1985|JIM MANN | Times Staff Writer

PEKING — The best-known and highest-ranking Chinese critic of the country's economic reform policies told Communist Party leaders Monday that officially inspired stories about the wealth of Chinese peasants are "divorced from reality."

In a speech delivered on the closing day of a special party conference, Chen Yun, China's senior economic planner, warned party leaders not to underestimate the unending problem of simply feeding and clothing China's population of 1 billion.

"We must continue to pay attention to grain production," said Chen, 80, who is one of five members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo.

Because of the rush to develop industry in China's countryside, "some peasants are no longer interested in growing grain," he said.

Chen acknowledged that income and living standards have improved in recent years for China's 800 million peasants, but he lashed out at reports in the government-controlled press about farmers who are earning 10,000 yuan a year (about $3,500)--virtually millionaire status in China.

"The media have for some time exaggerated the number of 10,000-yuan households," Chen said. "Actually, there are not that many. Our media's reports are divorced from reality."

The special party conference ended a day after the delegates, nearly 1,000 strong, completed their main task of selecting 64 new, relatively young members of the Central Committee. Beginning today, the Central Committee will, in turn, choose new members of the Politburo.

China's top leader, Deng Xiaoping, also addressed the conference Monday, but he did not attempt to respond directly to Chen's criticism.

Instead, Deng returned to old themes, telling party officials that, in general, the reforms that give scope to private initiative--reforms that were started in rural areas in the late 1970s--have succeeded and that they should therefore be given more time to work in the cities as well.

Goal the Same

"When the reform first started in the countryside, people said all sorts of things about it," Deng said. "But after three years, when many problems that had arisen in practice had been solved and good results had been achieved, there was more agreement about it. Of course, new problems will crop up and will have to be tackled."

As he has on other occasions over the last six months, Deng emphasized that his reform program is aimed at achieving the goal of socialism and, ultimately, communism.

"Only socialism can eliminate the greediness, corruption and injustice which are inherent in capitalism," he said. "In our propaganda work, we must firmly oppose bourgeois liberalism--that is, publicity that favors taking the capitalist road."

He urged that all party cadres "become well versed in basic Marxist theory."

Chen, who was the government's first chairman of financial and economic affairs after the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, agreed with Deng that the goal of the current reform program is to build socialism. But he added a strong plea on behalf of traditional socialist central planning, which Deng has been de-emphasizing.

Denounced Some Officials

"In terms of the country as a whole, the planned economy's primacy and the subordinate role of market regulation are still necessary," Chen said. He warned against "blindly allowing supply and demand to determine production."

Chen also denounced party officials who have "forsaken the socialist and communist ideal."

"Some of them," he said, "have become rich by unlawful means, such as speculation and swindle, graft and acceptance of bribes. In their dealings with foreigners, they have no consideration of personal or national dignity."

Texts of Chen's speech were distributed to reporters along with Deng's, and portions of it were broadcast on television Monday night. In effect, it was given the status of reflecting a loyal opposition within the party leadership.

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