ADVISORY COMMISSIONS WILL BE A
TRANSITIONAL MEASURE FOR THE ABOLITION
OF LIFE TENURE IN LEADING POSTS
July 30, 1982
I did not intend to speak at this meeting. We are preparing two documents for submission to the Seventh Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee. Much effort has gone into the drafting and, in my opinion, both documents are fairly well thought out. Of course, some parts need further deliberation. As Comrade Hu Qiaomu has just said, it is impossible to meet the requirement in Article 18 of the draft revised Party Constitution that the main documents of a Party congress be distributed for discussion by the whole Party one month in advance. Some other requirements are difficult to meet too, such as the stipulation that delegates to a Party congress should be notified of its convening three months in advance. In short, we shouldn’t commit ourselves on paper to do what cannot be done. A Party Constitution doesn’t have to go into so much detail anyway. Generally speaking, the two documents are fairly well prepared.
There are some problems that have not been fully solved in the present draft of the revised Constitution. For instance, it mentions the problem of life tenure in leading posts without providing a definitive solution. The same is true with setting up a retirement system. Establishing advisory commissions may serve as a transitional measure. In view of the present situation in the Party — which is that the average age of our cadres is too high but that old comrades are still the mainstay — we must not deal with this issue too hastily; hasty measures won’t work. Another thing is that over the years we haven’t promoted enough young and middle-aged cadres to leading posts. We simply haven’t paid enough attention to this matter. But we should also admit that there really are obstacles, a number of which, though not all, are created wittingly. Thus we need advisory commissions to facilitate the transition from the system of life tenure in leading posts to a retirement system. We adopt this measure to make the transition comparatively smooth. The commissions will probably be abolished three Party congresses from now. If they were to be abolished after two Party congresses — that is, in 10 years’ time — how many of us here today would still be around? Those who are now 60 will be 70 then, those now 70 will be 80, and those now 80 will be 90. That is why we say the advisory commissions are a transitional measure — and a necessary one. We have chosen this unprecedented form as a result of our Party’s actual situation. But even during this transitional stage we must endeavour to reduce the average age of cadres and to create conditions for abolishing life tenure and setting up a retirement system. There are many young and middle-aged cadres. The trouble is that for a long time our veteran comrades have paid no attention to them when selecting successors. They have always drawn from within the circle of their own acquaintances. Thus the problem was never solved. It is especially serious in the army, and it’s harder to solve there than in civilian units, where the situation is now somewhat better. This has a bearing on army building. The State Council and the organs directly under the Central Committee have done quite well in the current organizational readjustment, but the army has lagged behind. If we really want to choose the right cadres, they can be found. Of course, the problem of transition is present to some degree under all circumstances, and we will have to work out whatever measures are necessary. But if this generation of ours can’t solve the issue, it will count against us. A group has recently been set up to study the question of recruiting more young and middle-aged cadres into the next Central Committee. After some discussion this group has proposed an average age roughly the same as that at the inception of the Eleventh Central Committee. We were young when we first became members of the Central Committee. Comrade Chen Yun and I were both 52 at the time of the Eighth National Congress, which elected a Central Committee with a fairly low average age. As it is now, the average age of the Central Committee members is higher than that of those elected at the Ninth, the Tenth, and the Eleventh National Congresses. Of course, those who rose to prominence through “rebellion” and became Central Committee members during the “cultural revolution” were young. But that was abnormal. The transitional form we have now chosen is appropriate. However, during the transition period — which may last, say, 10 years (the combined tenure of two Central Committees) — we must make a real effort to lower the average age of members of the Central Committee.
(Excerpt from a speech at an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.)