China Battle of the Octogenarians

A power struggle is under way, and Deng may be in trouble

"The knives are out. If Deng died tomorrow, this place would be a real mess." With those blunt words, a senior Western diplomat in Peking summarized the view of China watchers around the world about the country's new power struggle. Chinese Leader Deng Xiaoping appears to be in trouble, and his vaunted economic reforms may also be imperiled.

The question of whether Deng is still in charge was first raised in January, when his protege and handpicked successor, Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang, was abruptly ousted after being blamed for disruptive student demonstrations in December. Deng immediately spread the word...

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