He didn't show up at the opening session of the 14th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on October 12, to which he is a special deputy. He presented no written speech to the assembly either. But China's paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, did join the 2,000 delegates by his theory and policies.
Deng's ideas were reflected in the political report to the congress presented by his successor Jiang Zemin, general secretary of the CPC.
Titled "Accelerating the Reform, the Opening to the Outside World and the Drive for Modernization, so as to Achieve Greater Successes in Building Socialism With Chinese Characteristics," the manifesto states that the task of this congress, under the guidance of Deng's theory of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, is to review the practical experience of the past 14 years and formulate a strategic plan for the period ahead.
As most analysts anticipated, the socialist market economy was one of the fundamental topics of Jiang's presentation.
"Practice in China has proved that where market forces have been given full play, the economy has been vigorous and has developed in a sound way. To optimize the economic structure, to improve economic performance, to accelerate economic development and to take part in international competition, we must continue to intensify market forces.
"Now that we have gained a deeper understanding in practice, we should explicitly state that the objective of the reform of the economic structure will be to establish a socialist market economy that will further liberate and expand the productive forces," Jiang said in his report.
The Party chief also suggested four ways to establish a socialist market economy. First, and most importantly, "We must change the way in which state-owned enterprises operate, especially the large and medium-sized ones, and push them into the market so as to increase their vitality and efficiency." Other methods involve the establishment of the market system, the reform of the distribution and social insurance systems and a change in the functions of government.
The week-long convention will choose a new Party Central Committee. And the new committee, in turn, will elect a new political bureau, the Party's highest decision-making body, in its first plenary session when the congress concludes. This task adds to the global significance of the meeting.
There is no doubt that more capable, well-educated and younger Party members will enter the leadership. In due time, the aged veterans are expected to retire. According to Jiang, the Central Advisory Commission, which was founded 10 years ago and consists of senior Communist leaders, will be abolished as of this congress.
The First Plenary Session of the 13th Central Committee of the CPC, held in November 1987, chose a 17-member Politburo. Among them, Hu Yaobang, former general secretary, died in April 1989. Zhao Ziyang, Hu's successor, was removed from all his posts soon after the June 4th Incident in 1989. Along with Zhao, Hu Qili lost his Politburo membership. Hu Qili, however, was appointed a deputy minister of the central government last year, and is rumoured to have a chance for Party promotion.
With senior members leaving and the possible expansion of the political bureau, people will probably see more new faces in position of leadership. It is widely believed that vice premiers Zhu Rongji, Zou Jiahua, Generals Liu Huaqing, Yang Baibing and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen are expected to board the Party's "flagship." Other candidates may include the Party chiefs in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangdong and Tibet.
The CPC was founded in July 1921 with only 53 members. It now has more than 51 million, according to the Organization Department of the Party Central Committee.
Because of wars or political turmoils, the Party did not hold regular congresses until 1977, when the 11th congress was convened. Since then the assembly has met every five years.