Bush goes to China to talk turkey on joint economic relations

October seems to be a popular time to visit Peking. Even before Vice-President George Bush arrives here Sunday, Chinese protocol officers will already have welcomed this month two Presidents, a prime minister, two United States governors, two military chiefs of staff, plus over a dozen delegations of top-ranking politicians from various countries and the state of California. The Japanese foreign minister arrived yesterday, and a Soviet vice-foreign minister is still in town holding semi-annual talks with his Chinese counterpart.

Some of these visitors are on serious business, but for others the routine meeting and greeting and the lavish banquets and return banquets leave little time for work. If Mr. Bush does get down to business with his Chinese hosts during his five-day official visit next week (only three days of it in Peking), he will have to tackle some old economic problems that have remained unsolved for several years and some new problems that have been aggravated in recent months.

One recent serious development is legislation pending in the US Congress that would erect trade barriers to China's exports to the US.

``One of the most volatile issues facing US-China trade is some of the protectionist bills being considered by the US Congress,'' said Chris Brown, head of the Peking office of the National Council on US-China Trade.

Some 150 US corporations now have offices in China, and dozens of business delegations have traveled here this fall to look into prospects for trade and investment with Chinese partners. A number of US companies are involved in negotiations for major projects in China, and some US businessmen are concerned that their participation in these projects could be threatened if protectionist legislation is passed.

Despite signs of trouble ahead and the recent harshness in the business climate in China, the trends in US-China economic relations are positive. Trade with the US is less affected by China's cutback in foreign exchange transactions than trade with Japan, which has been dominated by consumer goods and which has been a prime target of this year's austerity measures by the Foreign Trade Ministry.

US investment in China has risen sharply in the past six months, though it is still modest. Total US investment, exclusive of offshore oil exploration contracts, now is almost $600 million.

But China is not satisfied with US business involvement in its modernization efforts, especially with its limited success in gaining access to modern industrial technology. China's senior leader Deng Xiaoping recently commented that technology is the most important item US companies could share with their Chinese business partners and noted that both the US government and Congress could be more helpful in this area.

Vice-President Bush may hear such complaints from his Chinese hosts. He is also scheduled to see one example of an ongoing US-China technology transfer at the Peking Jeep Corporation, where American Motors has recently completed the installation of an assembly line for its popular Jeep Cherokee. About a dozen Jeeps have been assembled in the past few weeks, and Chinese workers are beginning to gear up for full production using the latest equipment and assembly-line techniques learned from their American


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