In a "no-holds-barred exchange," Richard M. Nixon today told Deng Xiaoping that some Chinese leaders have lost respect in the United States, and Deng accused Washington of involvement in the democracy movement that China's army crushed in June.
China's 85-year-old senior leader told the former President that "China has not done one single thing harmful to the United States" in the last decade, the New China News Agency reported.
A member of the Nixon party who attended the meeting between Deng and the American leader who opened the door to China in 1972 characterized their conversation as a "a very tough, no-holds-barred exchange."
Nixon also spoke with Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin about the "tragedy" of the military crackdown on student-led dissent, the American informant said.
Nixon told Deng that he had observed relations closely for 17 years and that "there has never been a more difficult crisis than at the present time."
He said it is important to discuss differences and "repair the damage that has been done to the respect in the United States among China's friends for some of China's leaders."
He did not identify those leaders. Deng, Premier Li Peng and President Yang Shangkun have been singled out for ordering the June attack on pro-democracy demonstrators in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people were killed.
Deng charged that the United States "was involved too deeply in the turmoil and counterrevolutionary rebellion," the government's terms for the democracy movement.
"China was the real victim, and it is unjust to reprove China for it," he said.
Deng and Nixon, who was on the fourth day of a private visit, agreed that ideological differences should be overcome and relations improved on the basis of common strategic interests.
"I'm very much in favor of your view regarding state-to-state relations," Deng said to Nixon as they met at the Great Hall of the People. "You should focus on the strategic interests of a country, and you should not talk about historical roots or differences in ideology or the strength of a country."
Nixon has urged the governments to bury their differences over the crushing of dissent and mend their frayed relations.