China Balancing Act

Party reformers and conservatives reach an uneasy compromise

Precisely at 9 a.m. a bell sounded, and the officials milling around the Great Hall of the People scurried to their seats. As some craned their necks to get a good view, Deng Xiaoping, China's top leader, mounted the poinsettia- bedecked dais. Looking fit in a tailored Mao suit and vigorous beyond his 83 years, Deng beamed when the assembled 1,936 delegates gave him a standing ovation. Moments later, the other members of China's ruling gerontocracy limped into view. Leading them was Deng's fellow Politburo Standing Committee member, Conservative Chen Yun. Reportedly weakened by a stroke, Chen, 82, slowly toddled to...

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