China Seeks Closer Ties to Soviets, Premier Says

Times Staff Writer

Premier Li Peng said Saturday that China wants to normalize relations with the Soviet Union but that the two countries will not re-create their alliance of the 1950s.

Li, speaking to the board of directors and executives of the Associated Press, also denied rumors that a rift has developed in the Chinese leadership over how to proceed with economic reforms.

Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, in a major speech on policy toward Asia delivered Friday in Siberia, reaffirmed his interest in holding a Sino-Soviet summit and said he is ready to begin preparations for such a meeting.

Asked about Gorbachev’s speech, Li replied that China “would like very much” to normalize relations.


Estranged Since 1960

The two countries have been estranged since 1960, although trade and cultural relations have improved in recent years. The last Sino-Soviet summit was in 1959.

“Our objective is to get our relations back to a normal state of affairs,” Li said. “We will not return to the days when we were allied with the Soviet Union.”

Li stressed that the Soviet Union must urge Vietnam to withdraw its troops from Cambodia before a summit meeting can take place.


Vietnam, which invaded Cambodia in late 1978, still has about 100,000 troops in the country, where they support the Vietnamese-installed government in Phnom Penh against a resistance coalition backed by China.

Li said that during recent talks in Beijing, Chinese and Soviet negotiators reached broad agreement that Vietnam, which is backed by the Soviet Union, should withdraw from Cambodia.

Series of Negotiations

“It still takes a series of negotiations between the two sides to bring their views closer together,” Li said. “Once there is further agreement, the subject of a summit meeting will be placed on the agenda.”


Li also sought to reassure Western countries that a Sino-Soviet rapprochement will not threaten their interests.

“The logic seems to be that you think that since China and the Soviet Union are both socialist countries, once you normalize relations . . . (this) might lead to a kind of alliance which would be a threat to the West,” Li said. “This is not true. Improvement of Chinese-Soviet relations will not impair relations between China and the United States, and it will be in the interests of world peace.”

Li also stressed that in China’s domestic politics, there is no deep rift in the country’s top leadership.

Media Rumors


Many Chinese publications in Hong Kong and some Western news organizations have reported rumors in recent weeks that Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang’s influence over economic decision making has been trimmed as a result of problems encountered in China’s market-oriented reforms.

Zhao has been seen as the strongest advocate of rapid reform, which has led to economic growth but which has also brought a 20% inflation rate, worsening corruption and instances of bank runs and panic buying by consumers.

The government recently announced measures designed to cool the economy and bring down the inflation rate. Radical price reforms are to be postponed at least until 1990, with emphasis through the end of next year on reform of enterprise management.

Some reports have said that these decisions represent a political defeat for Zhao and a victory for Li, who is widely viewed as the more cautious of the two leaders.


Li, however, denied that this is the case.

The decisions were taken by top party and government leaders “under the directorship of General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, and some were proposed by him . . . ,” Li said. “Our top leadership is united.”

Li acknowledged, however, that sometimes there are differences of opinion within the leadership over what concrete measures to take in the course of reform.

“This is quite normal,” he said. “If everyone agrees with everybody else, there is no need to hold meetings.”