The Chinese failed to publicly signal any significant change in policy toward Washington during the visit of U.S. national security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski that ended yesterday.
Chinese words and action during the trip were almost identical to those during the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in August, although the Chinese seem pleased with Brzezinski's tougher anti-Soviet remarks and appear more confident of U.S. commitment to improved relations with Peking.
Brzezinski left Peking yesterday for Tokyo.
Last year, the Chinese complained that the new Carter administration was being both too eager in its support of the Nationalist Chinese in Taiwan and too reluctant to stand up to China's more serious enemy, the Soviet Union.
In his opening banquet toast to Vance, Chinese Foreign Minister Huang Hua said then that "there are now still problems in the relations between our two countries." Huang is unlikely to have changed his opinion since Washington continues to recognised Taipei but in an apparent gesture of increased confidence, he chose not to use the words in greeting Brzezinski.
Instead he added the thought that "our countries do hold common or similar views on a number of questions in thr present international situation," a phrase the Chinese often during upswings in their relations with Washington.
Whatever small diplomatic gains Brzezinski made during his three days in Peking could still be blown away by the kind of careless post-visit assessment that irked the Chinese after Vance's trip. Veterans of the Vance triplike White House Chinesewatcher Michel Oksenberg and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, who accompanied Brzezinski, remember the harsh Chinese reaction and concerted diplomatic repair work that followed overly optimistic assessments of the Vance visit.
Brzezinski greater willingness to express his suspicions of Moscow in public certainly delighted the Chinese, who heard a mush softer line from Vance last August. Arriving at a convenient high point in Soviet adventures in Africa, Brzezinski struck out against "global or regional hegemony" in his banquet remarks and while on the Great Wall joked about looking for the "polar bear."
Like Vance, however, Brzezinski scrupulously avoided any comment that might suggest that the Chinese opposition to continued U.S. ties with Taiwan has softened. The Chinese appear not to have budged an inch on their demands that Washington cut all diplomatic and military ties with the Nationalist Chinese-held island, the key obstacle to full U.S.-Chinese diplomatic relations.
Peking's antennea quiver at the mere suggestion from the U.S. side that there has been "progress" on the issue- which Chairman Hua Kuo-feng's government apparently fears would be taken by its domestic critics as a sign it had softened on the issue.
Thus, despite all Vance's effort in August to give reporters accompanying him very neutral statements on Taiwan, an optimistic interview apparently given by White House foreign policy staffers back in Washington had the Chinese grumbling before Vance even returned home.
President Carter's remarks on greeting Vance at Andrews Air Firce Base did not help much either, administration officials say. Most of the president's word were cautious, but the Chinese reacted sharply to his description of the trip as "a very important step forward in our ultimate goal of normalizing relations.
Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping reacted in September by reportedly calling the Vance trip a "step backward" in an interview with American visitors. Other Chinese are similarly critical of U.S. ties with Taiwan, so for this trip Brzezinski advertised his intend to finese the Taiwan issue and concentrate instead on the easier question of to cooperate with Peking in frustrating Soviet interference in the developing world.
His disclaimer of any intent to use the trip to pressure Moscow on arms and or other negotiations with Washington was phrased like a threat itself. He repeated it at both opening and closing banquets in Peking: "Only those aspiring to dominate others have any reason to fear the further development of American-Chinese relations."
The trip to the Great Wall had reportedly not been on Brzezinski's original, businesslike schedule, but he eventually succumbed to the lure of one of the wonders of the world like any first-time Peking visitor.
It proved a splendid forum for more anti-Soviet shoes. "If we get to the top first, you go in and opposed the Russians in Ethopia," a French correspondent quoted him as telling his Chinese escorts. "It you get there first, we go in and opposed the Russians in Ethopis." He posed for a picture with Chinese sailors who reportedly dubbed him "the polar bear tamer."
Brzezinski's trip had been preceded by friendly gesture on both sides. Peking named a new chief for its Washington liaison office and Washington ordered the closing of a couple of American government libraries in Taiwan. But there was little chance of any agreement on Taiwan. Brzezinski spared himself the nuisance of having to turn aside regular questions on the issue by banning American reporters from the trip.
The official New China News Agency described Brzezinski's long talks with Huang, Teng and Hua - who all saw Vance in August - as "candid" and "frank," an indication of disagreement and a sign of no progress on Taiwan. Even before Brzezinski left Peking, the news agency carried a harsh attack on Nationalist Chinese President Chiang Ching-kuo and U.S. support for his government in Taiwan.
To illustrate China's two-handed approach for foreign policy, however, the day before Brzezinski arrived the same news agency carried a warm description of a Peking reunion Chinese leaders and former U.S. Army officers who served in China during World War II.
It requires great exertion and time to realize the normalization of relations," second ranked Communist Party leader Yeh Chien-ying told the group. "A cheerful and friendly cooperation between China and the United States which lie across the Pacific Ocean will be favorable to world peace."