SO Ronald Reagan comes calling this week. What an irony that such a staunch friend of Taiwan, who harshly criticized Jimmy Carter for normalizing relations with China, would be seeking our friendship to help his reelection! In 1980, Reagan campaigned to upgrade relations with the Kuomintang regime.
This could be an opportune occasion to exact concessions from the Reagan administration. Reagan has a personal stake in Sino-US relations. If his trip goes badly and relations take a turn for the worse, the Democrats and the news media will jump on him. Several Politburo colleagues want to exploit Reagan's vulnerability and make an offer he can't refuse: a new agreement on a timetable to phase out US arms sales to Taiwan; otherwise, make his trip look bad.
But I don't like this approach. Reagan has made significant concessions. He's gone beyond his three predecessors to accommodate our demands on the Taiwan issue. To get him to go beyond what he has already yielded in the 1982 communique will require a bit of a detour.
I recall that a suggestion was made in 1972 to Chairman Mao to demand several billion dollars in war reparations from the Tanaka government as a condition for normalizing Sino-Japanese relations. After careful consideration, Mao decided against the idea of a ''lump sum'' because he believed we could milk the Japanese of more, over a sustained period of time, if we played our hand skillfully. Mao told Tanaka that the Chinese government greatly valued Japan's friendship and would waive the compensation for war damages.
Consequently, we have been able to play on the gratitude of the Japanese and have received many installments of credits and loans. The latest loan was a fine one - a $2.2 billion loan delivered by Prime Minister Nakasone last month during his trip to China. Chairman Mao knew how to read the Japanese mind!
Likewise, it would probably be more productive to use finesse in our dealing with Reagan, rather than to confront him with diplomatic blackmail. Yes, we'll impress him with our opposition to continued US arms sales to Taiwan. We'll demand a definite timetable for US disengagement. But we'll also make it clear to Reagan that we will not dwell on the subject of Taiwan. Instead we will accentuate the positive and do all we can to make his trip look good back home. A capitalist like Reagan knows only too well that there is no free lunch. We expect him to return our favor - many times over.
First, we want quick and easy access to US high technology to help step up our economic growth. Failing that, my entire reform program will unravel and my power will be undermined.
Second, we want US military technology and weapons. We don't have enough foreign exchange to pay for what we want and need. But if the Americans want China to be a credible counterweight against the Russians, they have to give these things to us on a silver platter. That will also make my generals happy.
Third, we want US disengagement from Taiwan. We can wait another 10 years for the Americans to completely terminate arm deliveries to Taiwan, but there has to be a cutoff date. If the US agrees to this, the Taiwan regime will have no choice but to negotiate with us. If this happens, I'll have accomplished more than Mao or late Premier Zhou in enhancing Taiwan's reunification with China, and I will be accorded a decent place in history!
Soon after Reagan leaves China, a Soviet vice-premier will be coming. With our relations with the US and Japan bolstered, we can approach the Soviets from a position of strength and bargain hard on better terms for Sino-Soviet rapprochement. Kissinger, Brzezinski, and Haig tried but failed to play the ''China card'' against Moscow - but thanks to the Americans, we are now able to play one barbarian against the other.