The impact of last week's dismissal of Chinese Communist Party Leader Hu Yaobang on the country's ambitious economic reforms will become apparent over the next few months.

The demotion of a number of Mr. Hu's supporters within the leadership - such as Vice Premier Wan Li and Hu Qili, responsible for the party's day-to- day running - is widely forecast.It has yet to become clear whether Zhao Ziyang will retain the party leadership as well as his post as premier.

There are five vice premiers who could be promoted, and the name of Li Ruihuan, mayor of the northeastern industrial city of Tianjin, is also being floated.

Three vice premiers are supposedly under consideration: Li Peng, 58, a Soviet-trained technocrat with expertise in the electric power in ustry; Tian Jiyun, 58; and Yao Yilin, 70, noted for his interest in trade and finance.

Deng Xiaoping and Mr. Zhao have given assurances that the country's policies will not be changed. The door to the outside world will be held open more widely and in some areas such as banking the pace of reforms will be speeded up.

The supreme leader is certainly determined to carry on with his four modernizations, but it seems less likely that even he can square the circle:

* Is it possible to modernize the economy with Western technology and capitalist techniques while maintaining a communist dictatorship?

* Can he keep the door open to Western technology while keeping out political and cultural values and ideas? Everything that is known about Mr. Zhao's past indicates that he is a reformer; what his political views are is unclear.

He is thought to favor step-by-step introduction of political reforms, considered necessaryto balance the economic reforms.

Although this comfortingly suggests the removal of Mr. Hu is not so significant, the atmosphere in China has already changed. Old Maoist terms and ideas are again being heard.

The talk is of central planning, building the country with hard struggle and self-reliance. High consumption is out and the stress is on carefully controling expenditure.

Denigrating foreign things is back in fashion, with Tuesday's People's Daily newspaper highlighting mistakes made by foreigners in planning Shanghai's new airport.

The once liberal-minded Outlook Weekly magazine is busy pointing out that there is really no genuine press freedom or democracy in the United States.

During the two years since the urban economic reforms were launched, the political climate encouraged a spirit of open-ended experiments. Last year, the greater freedom extended into the arts and then the sensitive area of political reform.

Analysts say Mr. Hu was responsible for this atmosphere and determined to move the reforms ahead as fast as possible.

At the time, Mr. Deng, his associate and mentor for 40 years, was regarded as supporting his policies. It is being said that Mr. Deng was always less liberal than was thought abroad, and that the two quarreled frequently.

Another theory holds that the influence of the old guard was underestimated by outsiders because the conservatives were not visibly seen interfering in the running of party and government affairs.

Whatever the truth, the witch-hunt against bourgeois liberalism and Western influence will alienate China's intellectuals again. Freedom to debate and experiment will be severely curtailed.

The prospects for real change without the full support of an intelligentsia, public discussion free from ideological considerations or reform of the suffocating bureaucracy must be rated poor.

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