The National People's Congress on Saturday named as premier Li Peng, a cautious reformer whose foster father held the post for 27 years, and gave its approval to a program to cut bureaucracy.

Li, 59, has been acting premier since November, when Zhao Ziyang gave up the post to become Communist Party chief.On Sunday, members of an advisory body elected outgoing president Li Xiannian to its largely ceremonial post of chairman.

Li, 78, succeeds Deng Yingchao, the 84-year-old widow of Premier Chou En-lai, as head of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Other past conference chairmen were Mao Tse-tung, Chou and senior leader Deng Xiaoping.

The former president, the only candidate, was elected by 1,839 members attending the final day of the conference's annual session, held in conjunction with the National People's Congress.

Li Peng was the only congress candidate for premier, but delegates were told they could write in their own choice on the ballots. There were no reports of how many did, if any.

The premier is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the government, while the party leader controls the direction of government policies.

Li is the adopted son of Chou, one of China's most beloved Communist officials. A Moscow-educated technocrat, Li has previously been vice premier and minister of education and industry.

During the voting, delegates rushed to take pictures of each other depositing the pink and orange ballots into large ballot boxes set up throughout the main conference hall.

One delegate voted against the reorganization of state ministries and top-level commissions, which was approved by a show of hands of the 2,877 delegates in the Great Hall of the People. Two delegates abstained.

A key part of the reorganization plan the merger of China's railway and communications ministries and national airline was abruptly dropped before the vote. Officials said some delegates had objected to it, but gave no details.

There was no sign of China's senior leader, the 84-year-old Deng, who is a delegate and appeared at Friday's session. No official explanation was given.

Ninety-two ordinary delegates were also absent.

The government permitted foreign reporters to watch the voting from a balcony, but asked them to leave before the results were announced.

In his speech to the congress when its session opened March 25, Li strongly endorsed the reform goals of Deng and Zhao, but warned against rushing "headlong into mass action" or being "too impatient for quick results."