World & Nation

From the Archives: Gorbachev in China: The Communist Summit

Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

BEIJING -- Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev arrived in Beijing today for the first Sino-Soviet summit in 30 years, ending the long and bitter conflict between the two great Communist powers.

Gorbachev’s four days of talks with Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping, the country’s senior leader, are expected to complete the normalization of Sino-Soviet relations, which once were so tense that they brought the two nations to the brink of war, and to lay the basis for increased political and economic cooperation.

A pro-democracy protest by thousands of university students in Beijing’s Tian An Men Square forced the Chinese leadership to hold the formal welcoming ceremony for Gorbachev at the airport, instead of the occupied square outside the Great Hall of the People, where it had been planned.

Gorbachev, with his wife, Raisa, in a white dress by his side, emerged at the door of the Ilyushin 62 aircraft exactly as scheduled at noon and descended the stairs to be greeted by Chinese President Yang Shangkun. As cannons fired a 21-gun salute, a People’s Liberation Army band played the Soviet and Chinese national anthems, after which a single soldier marched in front of the Soviet leader, saluted and said, “Welcome comrade president.”


Gorbachev and Yang reviewed an honor guard of about 150 army, navy and air force personnel and greeted officials from the Soviet Embassy. They laughed and smiled as they chatted with each other before Gorbachev got into a black limousine and sped away for downtown Beijing, where he was greeted by tens of thousands of spectators who lined the route.

In an arrival statement, which was issued at the airport ceremony, Gorbachev said he was visiting in the springtime, a season of “renewal and hope.” He said Soviet Union believes the summit will “mark a watershed in relations” between the two countries.

“We in the Soviet Union follow with keen interest the transformations that are unfolding in China,” the Soviet president said.

At mid-morning today, about 30,000 student protesters, supporters and onlookers were still gathered in Tian An Men Square, where the late afternoon welcoming ceremony had been scheduled.


The decision to move the welcoming ceremony to Beijing’s old airport terminal marked a return to the old protocol in which visiting dignitaries were greeted immediately on their arrival, rather than later at Tian An Men Square.

Demanding a Dialogue

The demonstrators, including about 1,500 who began a sit-in and hunger strike Saturday, are demanding a dialogue with Communist Party and government leaders on ways to broaden democracy in China.

Zhao Ziyang, the Chinese Communist Party’s general secretary, had urged the students not to disrupt the summit, the first between Chinese and Soviet leaders since 1959, and the party newspaper People’s Daily called upon the students in a front-page editorial Sunday to “cherish the country’s reputation.”

Chinese authorities had issued orders that the square was to be closed to all pedestrians and traffic this morning, but the firm student protest upset this plan. Authorities have also announced that they plan to block off the square Tuesday morning, when Gorbachev is scheduled to lay a wreath at the Monument to the People’s Heroes in the middle of the square, where the demonstrators are gathered.

Soviet officials, clearly uneasy with the Chinese protesters’ demands for glasnost , the policy of political openness instituted by Gorbachev as part of increased democracy in the Soviet Union, refused to make any comment on the demonstrations except to say that Gorbachev’s schedule had already been “finalized” when students pressed for a meeting with him.

Visit to Shanghai

On Tuesday, the Soviet leader will meet with Deng, Zhao and Premier Li Peng. Further talks follow Wednesday, and Gorbachev will visit Shanghai before leaving for Moscow on Thursday.


Gorbachev left Moscow on Sunday morning and spent the night in the Siberian city of Irkutsk.

In addition to his wife, Gorbachev was accompanied to Beijing by Eduard A. Shevardnadze, the Soviet foreign minister; Alexander N. Yakovlev, another member of the party’s ruling Politburo who heads its Foreign Policy Commission, and Yuri Maslyukov, a Politburo alternate member, first deputy premier and the chairman of the Soviet State Economic Planning Commission.

China’s top leader, Deng, speaking last week with visiting Iranian President Ali Khamenei, said that he and Gorbachev would “try to settle the disputes that have arisen between us over the past 30 years so as to normalize Sino-Soviet relations,” the official New China News Agency reported.

“While one cannot expect an overnight solution to all problems,” the English-language China Daily newspaper commented, reflecting the still cautious official opinion here, “it is nonetheless hoped that the summit meeting will put an end to most of the past grievances and open up a new era in relations between the two countries. . . .

“The major concern of the Chinese people while welcoming Gorbachev is still whether the two nations will really establish a new relationship based on the principles of peaceful coexistence.”

Hard Talking Likely

Although agreement has been reached on a declaration that will proclaim the two countries’ desire to live as “good neighbors,” hard talking is likely on at least two issues--the continuing conflict in Cambodia, where China and the Soviet Union have backed different factions and Moscow has supported the decade-long Vietnamese intervention, and the unresolved disputes over the 4,500-mile border between China and the Soviet Union through Central Asia and the Far East.

Soviet hopes, however, are high, and Moscow sees the summit as not only healing the long breach with Beijing but forming part of a system of non-confrontational, cooperative international relations based on what Gorbachev calls “new political thinking.”


“The summit meeting between Chinese and Soviet leaders can be a decisive point in international relations, contributing to world peace and reducing tensions,” Gennady I. Gerasimov, the Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman, said at a weekend briefing here. “That is our hope and our expectation for this summit, and we believe that the Chinese side shares it.”

Both countries, however, are stressing that their rapprochement will not mean the reconstitution of the old Sino-Soviet alliance formed to advance the Communist revolution worldwide.

‘Not Going Back to the ‘50s’

“We are not going back to the 1950s,” Evgeny M. Primakov, director of the Soviet Institute of the World Economy and International Relations, a major Kremlin think tank, said at a weekend briefing. “Times have changed, the world has changed, China has changed and we have changed. We respect and value very highly China’s independent foreign policy.”

Beijing underlined that independence over the weekend by receiving U.S. Ambassador Edward L. Rowny, arms control adviser to President Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who briefed Chinese officials on Baker’s talks with Gorbachev in Moscow last week, and by announcing that ships from the U.S. 7th Fleet will visit Shanghai later this week.

The 7th Fleet’s port call was originally expected to begin Thursday, when Gorbachev is scheduled to visit Shanghai, but it was put off a day in an apparent effort to avoid embarrassing the Soviet president.

An official announcement of the port call is expected to be made by the Pentagon in Washington today.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE OF ACTIVITIES Here is today’s official itinerary as provided by the Chinese government:

4 p.m.--President Yang Shangkun and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev meet inside the Great Hall of the People.

4:30 p.m.--Soviet First Lady Raisa Gorbachev attends a tea hosted jointly by the Chinese People’s Assn. for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the Sino-Soviet Friendship Assn.

7 p.m.--Yang hosts a formal banquet for the Gorbachevs, also in the Great Hall of the People.

Dan Rather will anchor the CBS Evening News from Beijing during the summit. Bernard Shaw will also anchor broadcasts from Beijing during Cable News Network’s International Hour (noon PDT), Newswatch (3 p.m. PDT) and CNN Evening News (10 p.m. PDT) throughout the week.

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