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China's communists to reaffirm reforms

The Chinese Communist Party's 14th national congress, opening here today, will strongly reaffirm Deng Xiaoping's dramatic drive to rapidly liberalize China's economy with market-oriented reforms.

The meeting of 1,991 party delegates, which takes place every five years, is likely to be the ailing, 88-year-old Chinese patriarch's last hurrah and could see the election of relatively young reformists to the party's ruling Politburo.

But the congress' strong endorsement of Deng's policies will not be accompanied by a purge of party conservatives, with whom Deng has been forced to compromise.

It also is highly unlikely that the meeting will consider even marginally loosening the party's tight political control over China.

On balance, though, the congress is expected to result in at least a partial shift to a new generation of leaders in China, to more influence by technocrats rather than ideologues and to more power for provincial and military leaders.

Retirements and deaths have been moving China's old-guard revolutionaries out of the political limelight. This congress will hasten their exit.

Analysts expect the congress to enlarge the party's 14-member Politburo to accommodate the rise of a half dozen or more technocrats, military figures and representatives of China's booming coastal provinces _ virtually all likely tilting to the reformist side.

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