Deputy Premier Deng Xiaoping welcomes the demise of "evenhandedness" in United States policy toward China and the Soviet Union and says that "the main danger of war" now comes from Moscow.
There is nothing startlingly new in this view, but it shows the distance Washington and Peking have traveled since ping-pong diplomacy opened the door of reestablishment of Sino-American ties early in the 1970s.
Mr. Deng was responding to Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke's speech June 4 saying, "We will develop our relations with China on their own merits," not as a function of US-Soviet relations.
To Mr. Holbrooke, China is not an ally but a friend, while Mr. Deng says: "It is not quite appropriate" to call the United States an ally. Nevertheless there is obviously an increasing degree of warmth in the mutual relationship, and Mr. Holbrooke has now committed the United States to aid the achievement of China's ambitious, 20-year modernization program by transfers of technology, including some with military applicability.
All this is very gratifying to Mr. Deng, who sees "Soviet hegemonism" as the "main danger to world peace, security, and stability."
Meeting in the Great Hall of the People with a delegation from the national conference of editorial writers (US and Canada), the stocky, quick-tongued deputy premier made these additional points:
1. The four modernizations -- agriculture, industry, science and technology, and defense -- are difficult but achievable goals for a country whose population will reach 1.2 billion by the year 2000. The target is a per capita income of $ 1,000, compared to $200 today.
2. The crimes of the "gang of four" headed by Mao Tse-Tung's widow, Jiang Qing, are "towering," and they will definitely be brought to trial. But the trial will not be open to the international press because of "massive" state secrets involved:
3. Criticism will be tolerated as long as it is constructive and aimed at exposing persons or acts detrimental to socialist construction. Mr. Deng did not say how constructive criticism was to be distinguished from destructive. He cited the case of Wei Jingsheng, a dissident jailed for allegedly having sold military secrets to a foreign journalist, as an example of contacts he did not want ordinary Chinese to have with foreigners.
4. China is experimenting with elections at the county level.But a Western-style national legislature is unlikely.
"How many congressmen do you have?" Mr. Deng asked the American journalists. When they replied "535," he noted that since China had four times the population of the United States, it would need at least 2,000 legislators. "If our country has 2,000 members of parliament operating as in your country, how can the country be run?"
5. The practice of lifetime tenure in party and government will be eliminated , and fixed terms of office inaugurated both for party and government officeholders. At present, opinion leans toward a limit of three five-year terms for national officeholders and three three-year terms at the provincial level. But some younger officeholders might be permitted to stay on a bit longer, Mr. Deng says. If a man reached high office in his thirties, even after three terms he could still be in his forties.
6. On the oft-asked question about Mr. Deng's own retirement plans, he gives the standard answer: He intends to resign as vice-premier at the National People's Congress (NPC) this summer while retaining his posts as party vice-chairman and vice-chairman of the powerful military commission until 1985, when he will be 81. He gives himself an out, however. It will be up to the delegates to the NPC to accept his resignation, he says.
Mr. Deng was in a relaxed and even jovial mood as he welcomed the editorial writers and responded to their questions. He repeatedly stressed China's poverty and backwardness, as well as the precious years lost by the 10-year upheaval known as the Cultural Revolution.
But there was also a strong assertion of national pride. "Although China is a poor country, a weak country, it is not an insignificant country" among the forces opposing Soviet hegemonism, he says. And if the United States wants to sell grain and cotton to China and to engage in joint industrial ventures and transfer of technology, he adds, then it has to give China the means for paying for all of this by selling its own goods, especially textiles, to the American market.