Peking's leadership told a prominent American visitor last month that China and the United States "must use joint efforts in dealing with the [Soviet] polar bear."
That blunt language was coupled with criticism of the United States for pursuing an "appeasement policy" toward the Soviet Union, according to the visitor, retired Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt, former chief of U.S. naval operations.
Transcripts and summaries of Zumwalt's July conversations with Chinese leaders were released to The Washington Post. They include talks with one of the Communist Party's four new deputy chairmen, Li Hsien-nien and with Foreign Minister Huang Hua. Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance's first talks in Peking yesterday were with Huang Hua.
The Zumwalt transcripts contain blunter language about parallel American-Chinese interests in checkmating the Soviet Union than either Peking or Washington ever officially admits. Public transcripts of any private talks with Chinese leaders are a rarity.
These records, Zumwalt said, were made by his daughter Ann, a Catholic University graduate who accompanied him and served as note-taker. The time required for translation, she said, enabled her to produce virtually verbatum accounts. Zumwalt said a copy of the records was given to the State Department.
Zumwalt, a critic of past American policy on Soviet detente, or relaxation of tension, was one of a series of recent visitors welcomed to China as hard-liners on relations with the Soviet Union. He is a member of the Committee on the Present Danger.
The records he made available showed the vice Premier Lie, while praising former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger for the Nixon administration's opening to China in 1971-1972, said of Kissinger: "He fears the Soviet Union very much. I think the United States should be tougher with the Soviet Union."
Zumwalt, an arch-critic of Kissinger, agreed with Li. He said Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, "asked me to state that the present administration does not share the last administration's tragic view. It has an optimistic view of the future. It is prepared to compete with the Soviet Union if necessary."
Among the points Zumwalt reported his Chinese hosts made in the course of his month's stay were these:
Chinese leaders have concluded that the Soviet Union is focusing its energies on Western Europe rather than on either China or Africa.
African developments are going well from China's standpoint and Peking will continue to support African nationalist aspirations.
The idea of bartering surplus Chinese oil for American arms collides with current Chinese policy, but buying U.S. oil-drilling equipment does not.
The discussions revealed no new flexibility, however, on the central issue of China's unresolved demand that United States sever official relations with the Nationalist Chinese government on the island of Taiwan.
Repeating these demands, which include abrogating the U.S.-Taiwan Mutual Defense Treaty of 1954, Li said, "On this question, the United States owes us a debt."
The Carter administration's hope has been that China would agree to give higher priority to coordination of global strategy, leaving the Taiwan dilemma to an evolving "process" that would permit some substitute U.S. ties to be developed there.
At the outset of the conversation with Zumwalt, Li said in referring to the Soviet Union, "Yes, we must use joint efforts in dealing with the polar bear."
And at the end of their talk, Li said, "We do have a common point of understanding: concern over the expansion of the Soviet Union." But Li immediately added, in referring to Taiwan, "If relations between our two countries are not normalized, it will be difficult to expand the relations between our two countries."
In setting out Peking's version of the Soviet global challenge, Li amplified upon the recently expanding Chinese contention that Soviet strategy is not primarily aimed at China.
"Because in fighting when using two fists you always have a focal point. You can't use two fists at the same time if you have two different targets.
"So how is it possible," Li asked, to use one fist against China and one against Europe? Because the Soviets would scatter strength. Because if they should attack China, their forces would be knock down in China, and, under the weakness created, the United States and Europe would go to Moscow . . .
"In our view," Li continued, "the focus of the Soviet Union lies in Europe. It was not in Africa in the past and it is not in Africa at the present. As far as China is concerned, the ambitions of Soviet revisionists to subjugate China will not last . . ."
In discussing Africa with Zumwalt, Deputy Chairman Li said, "We think the situation in Africa is good, and said China would continue to work toward uniting Africa.
The Sudan, and of late Somalia, have grudges against the Soviet Union because the Soviet Union supports Ethiopia. And, of course, there are a lot of contradictions in the Red Sea region: Sudan against Ethiopia, Somalia against Ethiopia, struggles between certain Arab countries.
"But I do not think," Li continued, "that it is possible for the Soviet Union to get control of the whole of Africa. Some countries of Africa are close to the Soviet Union. But some day they will see through the Soviet skin. For example, once relations between Egypt and the Soviet Union were good. They even had a treaty of friendship.
"We hope the affairs of Africa will be settled by the Africans themselves and that the African people will be united. And now the problem is South Africa and Zimbabwe. The majority is dissatisfied with the rule of the minority. And I think it is much better if you settle the problem by acceding to the demands of the majority."
Prime Minister Ian Smith of Rhodesia and John Vorster of South Africa, Li said, 'stick to racial discrimination. This raises the majority to resistance. The Soviet Union currently has its way in Angola. But there is great turmoil in Angola. About 10,000 Cuban troops are stationed in Angola. Do you think the Angolans are happy about that?"
Zumwalt, who was chief of naval operations from 1970 to 1974, said in an interview about his month-long trip, which began June 29, that he sensed Chinese leaders would accept American arms if the deal could avoid the appearance of dependence.
Several times Zumwalt suggested that the Chinese exchange their surplus oil for American arms. But the responses were either opposed or non-committal.
"We have considered this before," Li remarked when Zumbalt said American oil companies that helped bring China's offshore oil into production could be paid by getting a share of the oil.
"Generally speaking," said Li, "we do not want to introduce the concept of joint development of our resources. But I believe that in the future we can operate through commercial channels to purchase equipment from the United States. At present we cannot consider the question of joint development.
"Even if our relations are normalized," Li continued, "such an idea is not realistic. The reason is that the Chinese people do not consider it to be good to permit foreign investments or other forms of foreign access to our resources . . ."
Zumwalt at another point in his conversation with Li said Brzezinski "asked me to make clear" that the Carter administration has not decided to bar weapons sales to China.
A New York Times story to that effect "was not an accurate report," ZumwaIt said, because it was based on a working draft of arms sales policy from which such a restriction was later removed. Responded Li:
"We have reead such a report. We do not attach much importance to such questions because the question of arms technology for us does not arise. We should each act in our own way."