US and China in accord on Kremlin
When United States Secretary of State George Shultz visits China this week, he will find that Peking and Washington share similar views and policy objectives regarding the Soviet Union.Skip to next paragraph
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Sino-American bilateral relations are cool. The Taiwan issue, although temporarily compromised, continues to rankle. A dispute over Chinese textile exports adds an economic dimension to what one Western diplomat characterized as a ''queasiness on both sides'' about the mutual relationship.
But the same diplomat noted ''quite a bit of symmetry'' in Chinese and American views of Moscow. Soviet leaders have been saying nice things about China for most of last year, and in October the two sides opened talks designed to see how their relations could be improved.
The first round ended amicably but inconclusively in Peking, and the second round is to be held in Moscow in March.
The very fact that the two governments are talking to each other after so many years of hostility has set off a flurry of speculation. It now seems clear that despite the advent of a supposedly more flexible Soviet leadership under Yuri Andropov, normalization of Sino-Soviet relations will take a very long time. The basic Chinese view of Moscow as an expansionist, hegemony-seeking superpower has not changed. Recently, the Soviet magazine New Times sharply criticized China for allegedly reviving claims to more than 1.5 million square kilometers of territory taken by czarist Russia in the 19th century.
In turn, on Jan. 23 the People's Daily carried an article from the forthcoming issue of World Knowledge saying, ''China is not demanding any territory from the Soviet Union.'' But the article reminded Soviet readers that czarist Russia had indeed seized 1.5 million kilometers of territory from China, and that even Marx, Engels, and Lenin had acknowledged that the Peking treaty incorporating most of these annexations had been an unequal treaty.
The article said that the two great neighboring countries of China and the Soviet Union should live in peace and harmony and that the talks recently begun between the two ''are a good thing.'' It wondered why, at such a time, the New Times should be ''replaying an old tune.''
It remains to be seen whether this sharp exchange between the media of the two countries signifies a revival of Sino-Soviet polemics or whether it will remain an isolated incident. In any case it is clear that China continues to press the Soviet Union to give way on at least one of three major issues: the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Soviet support for the Vietnamese occupation of Kampuchea (Cambodia), and the large number of Soviet troops along the Sino-Soviet and Sino-Mongolian borders.
On at least two of these issues - Afghanistan and Kampuchea - American policy objectives are similar to those of China. On the third, Soviet troop withdrawals from the Sino-Soviet border, the US can hardly object since Washington and its Western allies are also trying to get the Soviets to reduce their troop strength in Europe.
Mr. Shultz is expected to reassure his Chinese hosts that the Western allies have no intention of seeking the removal of Soviet SS-20 missiles from Europe only to see them moved to face China. On this issue of reductions of Soviet troops and equipment, Western and Chinese interests are clearly parallel. Neither wants reduction of Soviets forces in one area to lead to the strengthening of such forces in another.
An article in the latest issue of Peking Review entitled ''China's Independent Diplomacy'' complements the article on the Soviet Union in the New Times by denying that China is practicing ''equidistant'' diplomacy between the US and the Soviet Union. The article notes that China opposes the US on Taiwan policy and on aspects of economic and trade matters.
''In the world arena,'' it continues, ''we stand against United States support of Israel and South Africa in their aggression and expansionism.'' But China's policy is ''independent,'' the article stresses. ''China will never tag after any big power or bloc of powers, nor will it succumb to pressure from any big nation. . . . [While] we may emphasize opposition to Soviet hegemonism at one time and censure of US policy at another [time], we base our position on our judgment of the world situation rather than on what is called an equidistant diplomacy.''
The diplomatic community in Peking also noted that Premier Zhao Ziyang, in his just-completed month-long tour of Africa, was circumspect in his criticism of American actions. He opposed American attitudes toward Israel and South Africa but pointedly refrained from lumping the US with the Soviet Union in a general ''plague on both your houses'' attack.
In Asia, the region where China has the greatest ability directly to influence the course of events, China remains a country pursuing policies congenial to the US, a country whose independence and territorial integrity are important to the global balance and to Western security. This is foundation enough upon which Mr. Shultz can strive to build a better superstructure of working relationships between the Chinese leadership and the administration he represents.