BEIJING — Senior leader Deng Xiaoping retired today from several top political posts in the Communist Party, leading an exodus of key elderly leaders from the Central Committee. He is, however, expected to remain China's paramount leader.
President Li Xiannian, 78; veteran economist Chen Yun, 82; National People's Congress Chairman Peng Zhen, 85, and orthodox ideologist Deng Liqun, 72, joined Deng, 83, in stepping down from the new 175-member Central Committee elected at the 13th Communist Party Congress, which concluded its eight-day session this morning.
Deng is also expected to remain de facto commander in chief of the military by keeping the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission. The congress approved a change in the party constitution to allow someone who is not a member of the Central Committee to head that commission.
Politburo members are chosen by the Central Committee from its members, so none of the retiring first-generation revolutionaries can retain seats on that powerful body. The Central Committee is expected to meet either today or Monday to elect a new Politburo.
The reformist former general secretary of the party, Hu Yaobang, 72, who was forced to resign that post in January during a conservative ideological backlash against pro-democracy student demonstrations, retained his seat on the Central Committee.
Deng had said repeatedly that he wanted to leave his top party posts in order to pave the way for elevation of younger leaders who will carry forward his policies of market-oriented economic reform and openness to the world. The list of names released today means that he has succeeded in that goal.
In all, nine out of 20 members of the current Politburo are stepping down. The average age of those nine is 79.
Chen, Peng and Deng Liqun have all been critical of various aspects of Deng Xiaoping's reform program. Their departure from the Central Committee is viewed by Western diplomats and other analysts as likely to strengthen the position of younger leaders who want to push forward with reforms.
Chief among Deng's proteges in this successor generation is acting General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, 68, who presided over the closing ceremony of the congress today. Nearly 2,000 delegates unanimously approved a series of resolutions, then stood while an army band played the Socialist hymn, the "Internationale."
Zhao's keynote address to the congress last Sunday was a strong endorsement of Deng's economic program. The speech outlined a new ideological justification for market-oriented reforms.