Why Moscow seeks to play down Reagan's visit to China

As President Reagan was concluding his visit to China, two items came clattering over the wires of Tass, the official Soviet news agency. They amply summed up Moscow's view of the trip.

The first announced that the official segment of the trip was over, expressed disapproval of the agreements that were signed, and dismissed the visit as an election-year ploy.

The second was a condensation of a magazine article detailing, with apparent satisfaction, how ''the Taiwan problem remains a serious source of complications in US-Chinese relations.''

Thus the Kremlin under Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko seeks to downplay the significance of the President's trip and lay the ground for a high-level visit by its own emissary later in May.

First Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Arkhipov will ostensibly be seeking new trade contacts with the Chinese, but he will undoubtedly be carrying along a political message as well. Simply put, it is that the Soviet Union has more common interests with China than does the US.

Arkhipov will be the highest-ranking Soviet leader to visit China since former Soviet Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin met with Chou En-lai in 1969. Still, he is not a head of state, and the Soviets cannot hope to match the ceremony and publicity attached to Mr. Reagan's trip. Accordingly, they are downplaying it.

Tass, in announcing the end of the official segment of the trip, noted, ''the White House has done everything possible to turn the visit into a Hollywood-like TV show, intended to present Reagan in the best light to the US voters. . . .''

The official Soviet media belittled virtually every facet of Mr. Reagan's visit. Thus, trade and taxation agreements between the two countries allow ''broader opportunities for US capital (and) monopolies'' and ''exceptionally favorable conditions for US businessmen in China,'' presumably yielding no benefits to the Chinese.

Similarly, the US-China nuclear co-operation pact becomes an opportunity for US companies to unload unsafe equipment on the Chinese while these ''monopolies hope to get $10 million to $15 million for their equipment.''

And cultural agreements between the two countries, according to Tass, provide ''in particular, for the establishment of extensive contacts between the Voice of America . . . and Radio Peking.''

Notably, however, while the Soviets repeatedly berated President Reagan, comments about his Chinese hosts were relatively muted. Reagan was depicted as trying to lure China into a military alliance ''to the east of Soviet territory, just like to the west of it'' - a reference to Moscow's familiar claim that the US is trying to draw China into a military alliance grouping Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and various southeast Asian countries.

The general tenor of the President's discussions was ''on an anti-Soviet plane,'' according to the Soviet media. But they noted with approval that the Chinese deleted some of Mr. Reagan's comments about the Soviet Union from television and press reports.

Tass claimed that Reagan made ''gross attacks'' on the Soviets during the visit, and distorted Soviet policy. There was, of course, no mention in the Soviet press about the nature of those attacks. Thus, Soviet citizens heard nothing of the President's condemnation of the Soviet troops massed along the border with China, of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and of Soviet support for the Vietnamese occupation of Kampuchea.

These are the principle stumbling blocks in the way of any Sino-Soviet rapprochement, according to the Chinese. They are unlikely to go away quickly - and Arkhipov will undoubtedly have a hard time explaining them away to his Chinese hosts later this month.

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