BEIJING — Premier Zhao Ziyang was confirmed Monday as general secretary of China's Communist Party, leading a successor generation dominated by reformers into the top positions of political power.
Zhao's mentor, senior leader Deng Xiaoping, 83, retained the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission, which is equivalent to being commander in chief of the armed forces. But Zhao, 68, in a key step toward consolidating his power, was named vice chairman of the commission.
Joining Zhao in a five-member Standing Committee of the Politburo were three vice premiers--Li Peng, 59, Qiao Shi, 63, and Yao Yilin, 70--along with Hu Qili, 58, who is the leading reformist ideologue and a member of the Secretariat.
The new 175-member Central Committee, chosen at a National Party Congress that ended Sunday, also elected a 17-member Politburo that is dominated by Zhao allies.
The appointments, combined with retirement from the Central Committee on Sunday of every prominent hard-line critic of Deng's policies, mean that advocates of market-oriented reforms are in control of the Chinese Communist Party.
"In addition to laying a theoretical foundation for its basic line, the 13th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party has created a new leading nucleus characterized by its relative youth and knowledge and a firmness in pushing the policy of reform and opening to the outside world," the official New China News Agency commented Monday evening.
The average age of the Standing Committee, the core of party power, dropped from 77 to 64.
The incoming Standing Committee immediately demonstrated a dramatic new style by appearing Monday afternoon at a reception in the Great Hall of the People for about 400 Chinese and foreign journalists covering the party congress.
With television cameras rolling and tables of food and drink providing the only barrier between reporters and China's top leaders, Zhao and his colleagues spent an hour slowly circling the room and fielding questions. Zhao's comments were translated into English and read over a loudspeaker. The other leaders talked quietly with reporters.
Zhao, wearing a dark blue double-breasted suit and red tie, said his Western-style attire was made in China, and he jokingly urged the reporters to publicize that fact in order to promote more trade for China.
The entire event was broadcast Monday evening, without censorship, on state-run television.
In response to an American reporter's question as to whether the party congress "signals the end of the conservatives," Zhao denied that China's leadership is divided between supporters of reform and so-called conservative critics who lean more toward centralized economic and ideological control.
"Some foreign friends always think that in China there is a reform faction and a conservative faction," Zhao said, "and they often base their analysis on the conflicts between the so-called two factions. I would say that all those who analyze China's situation this way will undoubtedly make mistakes one after another."
Zhao pointed out that the nearly 2,000 delegates to the party congress unanimously approved a report he delivered to its opening session that ideologically justified anything contributing to economic growth.
"If you say there are reformist and conservative factions among the delegates, how is it that they all endorsed the report?" he said. "Wouldn't that be that they merged into one?"
Zhao acknowledged, however, that there are differences of opinion within the party.
"I think this is quite normal," he said. "There cannot be complete identity of views within the leadership on some specific issues and policies. Don't you disapprove of our unanimity of opinion? Then why do you make such a fuss now that we do have some small differences?
"It is my view that a few different views among our leaders--even among us, the five members of the Politburo Standing Committee--may help make the process of our decision-making more democratic and scientific. It is an important guarantee for us to avoid one-sidedness and to make fewer mistakes."
Vice Premier Li, who is widely expected to become premier when Zhao steps down from that post, is a Soviet-trained engineer who is often viewed as an advocate of central planning and thus a key member of the so-called conservative faction.
"I was one of those who drafted the report to the 13th Party Congress, and in the voting on the report, I voted in favor," Li said. "Therefore, I will forcefully carry out the report. The allegation that I am in favor of a centrally planned economy is totally a misunderstanding. The economic structure must be restructured."
Li lamented that "some people like to attach labels to people."
"Some people think that because I studied in the Soviet Union, I favor the Soviet model," he said. "On the other hand, some people have been studying in the United States. Would that be the case that they would favor the system of the United States? I don't think so."