BEIJING -- The Chinese Communist Party's national congress, which opens here today, will put out to pasture many of China's old-guard, conservative revolutionaries by abolishing a key advisory body for retired leaders.
During its six-day meeting, the congress will change the party's charter in order to eliminate its Central Advisory Commission, a congress spokesman, Liu Chongde, announced yesterday.
The commission -- composed of about 200 members, many well into their 80s -- was created 10 years ago by Chinese patriarch Deng Xiaoping as a way to gracefully move many other elderly party leaders out of the political limelight. Mr. Deng, 88, was its first leader.
But since 1987, the body has been led by another senior party leader, Chen Yun, 87, an advocate of Soviet-style central planning. Though believed to be seriously ill, Mr. Chen has actively opposed the rapid pace of Mr. Deng's economic reforms.
In the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Mr. Chen and other commission members aggressively reasserted their influence to lead a short-lived economic retrenchment here and a political crackdown that still is in force.
Abolishing the commission is in line with the anticipated tone of the party congress, which is expected to enshrine Mr. Deng's push toward liberalizing China's economy with market-oriented reforms and to move into power relatively younger reformists to carry out these reforms.
In statements yesterday, Mr. Liu, the congress spokesman, also implied that Mr. Deng himself might show up at the party congress -- which would be his first formal political appearance at a party function since the last party congress in 1987.
Mr. Deng retired from his last official party post in 1989, although he has retained the final say in Chinese politics to this day. He recently was rumored to have been hospitalized.
Despite ailments that have rendered him increasingly feeble, Mr. Deng emerged from seclusion early this year to tour southern Chinese boomtowns to kick off a public campaign for his market reforms and to limit the influence of conservatives.
That campaign largely succeeded in setting the reformist agenda for this week's congress, although conservatives still retain substantial power to launch a counterattack.