BEIJING — China's Communist Party radically overhauled its elite leadership today, promoting younger technocrats to take over from elderly revolutionaries and lopping 15 years from the average age of key Politburo members.
Premier Zhao Ziyang, heir-apparent to paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, was confirmed, as expected, in the top post of party general secretary.
The new Central Committee voted seven new men onto the 18-man Politburo and appointed four new members to its powerful five-member Standing Committee, leaving Zhao as the only holdover.
The average age of the Standing Committee fell from about 78 years to 63 years.
Asks Questions Himself
Appearing in triumphant spirits at a reception in the Great Hall of the People, Zhao clinked glasses with reporters and fielded questions on subjects ranging from the cut of his suit to relations with Washington and Moscow.
Zhao shook hands, cracked jokes and asked questions himself in an openness not seen in China in more than 20 years.
Teasing the 400 or so journalists present, Zhao disclosed that he will soon hand in his resignation as premier and propose his successor as acting premier until the National People's Congress meets next spring.
"I will not tell you his name, but you can say he is younger than I," Zhao, 68, said.
Zhao was accompanied at the reception by other Standing Committee members, introduced apparently in order of seniority--Li Peng, Qiao Shi, Hu Qili and Yao Yilin.
Li, a technocrat trained in Moscow and the adopted son of former Premier Chou En-lai, is a youthful 59, holds the post of vice premier and is in line to succeed Zhao as premier.
Hu, 58, is considered a close ally and supporter of Zhao's economic reform program, while Qiao, said by diplomats to have been in charge of internal party security, and Yao, a cautious economist, are seen as leaning toward the more hard-line end of China's political spectrum.
Most of the new faces on the Politburo are drawn from the ranks of economic managers and provincial officials at the forefront of reforms, while the outgoing men include octogenarian hard-liners who had appeared to hinder such policies.
Deng Most Powerful
Deng, 83, was reappointed chairman of the Military Commission, after stepping down from all his other party posts, and is still regarded as the most powerful man in China. His protege, Zhao, was made the commission's first vice chairman.
Chatting amicably with Soviet journalists, Zhao said China attached great importance to reforms under way in the Soviet Union, but conditions in the two Communist neighbors are different and the pace of reforms cannot be compared.
Answering American reporters, he attacked Washington's assertion that China has sold Silkworm missiles to Iran.
"Some people are attempting to shift the responsibility of the tension in the (Persian) Gulf onto China. This is unfair," Zhao said.
Zhao drew the loudest laughs with comments about his well-cut, Western-style business suits: "My suits are tailor-made in China and I hope my friends in the press will say that all Zhao's suits are made in China and are smart."
Reformists' triumph, Page 6.