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Chen Yun, 90, Deng’s Rival, Dies in China : Asia: Opponents of economic reforms lose an outspoken champion who criticized move away from centralized control.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Chen Yun, one of China’s most powerful Communist Party leaders and a leading opponent of the scope and pace of economic reforms in recent years, died Monday at the age of 90, government officials confirmed today.

A spokesman for the Chinese State Council said that Chen, patron of China’s hard-line Premier Li Peng, died in a Beijing hospital Monday afternoon.

The tough, outspoken Chen, a former typesetter in Shanghai and leader of the 1927 Shanghai insurrection, was a longtime ally of Chinese paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. Both men were purged from the Politburo by Chairman Mao Tse-tung during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

But at a Communist Party conference in 1985, Chen implicitly rebuked Deng for abandoning the central, planned economy and going too far with economic reforms.

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“The planned economy’s primacy and the subordinate role of market regulation are still necessary,” declared Chen, who served as one of China’s top economic managers between 1949 and 1958.

Since the 1985 speech, Chen was generally considered to be Deng’s most powerful rival and patron of the conservative faction of the Communist Party that opposes rapid liberalization of the economy. Some analysts even argued that the direction of economic policy in China depended on which of the two men, Chen or Deng, died first. Deng, also 90, has been reported ailing in recent months.

Ironically, the last time the two men were both seen in public was in Shanghai during the Spring Festival in 1994, and Chen, interviewed on television, appeared healthier and more alert than Deng.

Despite differences over the pace of economic reform, Chen never completely broke with Deng and supported him on other key issues not related to the economy, including the 1989 order to send troops from the People’s Liberation Army to break up pro-democracy demonstrations in Tian An Men Square.

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Nevertheless, Chen’s death will be viewed as a blow to supporters of a go-slow approach on economic reform. “This will be good for Deng Xiaoping for sure and bad for the central planners like Li Peng,” said one Chinese intellectual this morning when informed of Chen’s death.

Chen was one of the first senior Chinese leaders to lash out at the widespread corruption that has accompanied economic liberalization.

“There are now some people, including some party members, who have forsaken the socialist and Communist ideal and turned their backs on serving the people,” he said. “Some of them have become rich by unlawful means, such as speculation and swindling, graft and acceptance of bribes. In their dealings with foreigners, they have no consideration of personal or national dignity.”

However, as is the case with many senior Chinese leaders, Chen’s own family appeared to benefit from his high position and to profit from the reforms. His son Chen Yuan is deputy governor of the central bank and a daughter runs a venture capital company.

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Times staff writer David Holley in Tokyo contributed to this story.


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