Carrol Daily Times Herald from Carroll, Iowa on July 29, 1974 · Page 7
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July 29, 1974

Carrol Daily Times Herald from Carroll, Iowa · Page 7

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Carroll, Iowa
Issue Date:
Monday, July 29, 1974
Page:
Page 7
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China After Indispensable Chou: Unthinkable and Unpredictable By NBA-London Economist News Service China is compulsively secret. It seemed about to open itself up to foreign eyes for a brief period after President Nixon's trip to Peking in 1972, but the obscurantism has descended again. The result is that nothing short of a public funeral will stop the world wondering about the political and physical health of its leaders. The rumor that Chou En-lai has had a heart attack is still no more than one clue to his condition. But the fact that he was seen in a hospital three weeks ago by Sen. Henry Jackson confirms that the 76-year-old prime minister is indeed a sick man. The implications of this illness for China could be enormous. If Chou is sick enough to be on the verge of retiring, the very least this would mean is that the futurologists of China would have to go back to their drawing boards. The standard projection for the next decade is th,at China should make a relatively smooth transition into the post-Mao era provided Chou En-lai continues to hold the country together as he has done for so many years. China-watchers have hesitated even to speculate about what would happen if Chou should die or disappear before Mao, because China without its perennial prime minister is both unthinkable and wholly unpredictable. Oddly enough, the immediate impact of Chou's death or resignation would probably be less acute than the longer-term one. He has two extremely able deputies, with long experience as top-rank adminstrators and with records of pragmatic flexibility very like his own. Teng Hsiao-ping, who is now tipped as the next prime minister, spent ten years running the other great Chinese bureaucracy which parallels Chou's government administration, the party machine. Li Hsien-nien, the other deputy prime minister, was denounced during the cultural revolution of 1966-69 for an expression of economic pragmatism: "To think that only profit counts is wrong but to ignore profit completely is also wrong." Li has been directly concerned with the profitability of China's economy for 25 years as the minister in charge of finance and trade. If Teng succeeds Chou as prime minister, Li might well take over the economic part of the job while Teng concentrated on foreign affairs. So foreign policy and economic development should remain, for the moment, in the hands of two men very similar to Chou En-lai in experience, outlook and even, to a large degree, in ability. But there would still be one vital function which neither Teng nor Li nor anyone else can be expected to carry on. This is Chou's role as the master conciliator. Times Herald, Carroll, la. -w Monday, July 29, 1974 / Even during the 1950s, when China's leaders were still a relatively cohesive group of old comrades, Chou was called upon to reconcile divergent policies and personalities. But this talent for handling people really came into its own during the cultural revolution when the prime minister, already past retiring age, spent 20-hour days sorting out Red Guard factions, negotiating with army commanders and defending besieged colleagues while at the same time managing miraculously, to preserve China as a going concern. His remarkable juggling act from 1966 to 1969 was followed by an equally impressive performance during the next three years, when he successfully saw China through the potentially explosive aftermath of Lin Piao crisis in 1971 and at the same time engineered a total turnabout in China's foreign policy. All this made him the nearest thing to indispensable that any politican can be. It is easy to forget how enormously China's position in the world has changed since the closing stages of the cultural revolution five years ago, when the British embassy in Peking was being burned and Mr. Nixon was the devil-figure of Chinese propaganda. To have made that transition so smoothly is Chou's monument. Today he is still the pivotal figure in Chinese politics. But what suddenly seems to be missing is his magic as a mediator. Ever since the radicals started gunning for him under the cover of the anti-Confucius campaign last summer, Chou has been transformed, however much against his will, from compromiser into contestant. If he perceived that it was Mao who had done this to him by encouraging his opponents, and if his health was simultaneously declining, then he may well have decided that his only option was to withdraw from power. For the moment the moderates of the Chou school seem to be holding their own in the tug-of-war which has been played out in Peking's streets for the past month as poster attacks on party officials are slapped up and torn down. Chou's retirement would almost certainly upset whatever uneasy balance now prevails between the rival forces. It would then be up to Mao to prevent China from sliding back into factional warfare, cultural revolution-style. But any peace that Mao can patch up is unlikely to last a day longer than the 80-year-old chairman himself. (c) The Economist of London DOUBLE GOLD BOND STAMPS EVERY TUESDAY OPEN 24 HOURS EVERYDAY FAMILY PAK Cut Up 7 DAYS A WEEK GALLON 2% 5-lb. BEET 1-lb. 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