THE WORLD FROM...Beijing

China seeks to stengthen ties with remaining communist states even as it looks to West for economic aid

A CHINESE proverb best describes the predicament of Beijing in world affairs: "If you are rich, you speak the truth; if you are poor, your words are but lies."China, the most conspicuous mendicant among communist countries, seeks to regain some of the riches in aid, investment, and diplomatic influence it enjoyed in the last decade. Beijing squandered much of its diplomatic fortune with the crackdown on pro-democracy dissent starting in June 1989. Since then, much of its remaining foreign policy capital crumbled in the widespread crash of communism. Quintessentially pragmatic, China's leadership cloaks its socialist ideals and aspirations as it solicits business, aid, and diplomatic favor from its capitalist benefactors. The foreign policy of disguise means there are two ways China's leadership views the world. Publicly, China has promoted its open-door policy in hopes that wealthy foreign countries will help pull it toward prosperity. From this perspective, China has declared it respects the political will of peoples overseas, and it recognized the new popular governments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe. In internal documents, however, China's leadership has predicted that people from countries within the defunct East Bloc will someday struggle to restore socialism. Beijing also lambastes Messrs. Yeltsin and Gorbachev for betraying communism, according to Chinese sources. This reveals a deeper world view for the hard-line leadership in Beijing, which says China faces capitalist conspirators determined to overthrow socialism and entangle poor countries in a new world order of colonialism. The sound of this alarmist argument often rings in media harangues against the West's alleged campaign to promote "peaceful evolution," or goad China toward democracy and capitalism. Since the downfall of Soviet communism, Beijing has sought to improve relations with the hard-line socialist states of Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam as part of a broad effort to revive the flickering flame of communism. China and Vietnam plan to officially normalize relations next month, diplomats say. A Chinese delegation visited Havana last month to consider expanding $400 million in annual barter trade. The two countries also discussed diplomatic cooperation and ways China could help Cuba cope with a cutoff of massive Soviet aid. China's leadership apparently aims during the current visit to China by Kim Il Sung to coax the Stalinist leader of North Korea toward China's comparatively moderate ways. Mr. Kim's trip will include a stop at one of China's free-trade zones. China believes that by softening North Korea's ultraconservative approach toward economics, foreign affairs, and relations with South Korea, it will prevent another socialist ally from falling to a surge of popular unrest. While keeping contacts with other orthodox socialist states largely secret, China trumpets its pragmatic approach toward old and emerging capitalist countries. Gradually China has dug its way out of isolation. Since August it has hosted the prime ministers of Britain, Italy, and Japan. But Beijing must eventually address the stark contradiction between its hard-line words at home and pragmatic deeds abroad. "China warns about 'peaceful evolution,' but by remaining open to the West and welcoming foreign contact and investment, we are letting ourselves move toward democracy and capitalism," a former Chinese official says on condition of anonymity.

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