Peking has begun an intense campaign to win support throughout China for its potentially controversial decision to normalize relations with the United States.
No effort was spared today to bring the word to the Chinese people.
The People's Daily distributed one million copies of a special "red letter" extra in the Chinese capital today, according to an official news agency report.
Chairman Hua Kuo-feng's first press conference in China, during which he discussed the ticklish question of American arms sales to Taiwan, was broadcast across the country and prepared for publication in national newspapers, along with offical reports of how ordinary Chinese reacted to the move to full relations with Washington.
Peking television broadcast a special one-hour news show on the decision, including an unusual interview with the chief of the American liaison office, Leonard Woodcock, conducted by a Chinese reporter.
Since the first American clipper ships joined the opium trade on the South China coast, U.S. relations with China have experienced great fluctuaation. Even after President Richard Nixon's landmark visit to Peking in 1972, which ended 23 years of official hostility, the two sides experienced periods of distrust and domestic resistance to further improvement of ties.
The glowing Chinese media coverage of the normalization from American congressmen, seemed designed to forestall another lapse in confidence.
Peking's decision to go ahead with normalization despite the American guarantees to Taiwan also marks a significant change in the Communist Party's 51-year-old civil war against its Nationalist rivals. For the last 29 years the Nationalists have been isolated on the island of Taiwan and armed hostility has rarely broken out, a situation which the normalization agreement may help to preserve for some time.
Although Hua insisted at his press conference that Taiwan remained a part of China and that Peking firmly opposed the U.S. plan to provide limited defensive arms to the island, he acknowledged that Peking had endorsed the normalization deal with the full knowledge that the United States would make the arms available.
Significantly, China's account of the U.S. agreement avoided referring to the "liberation" of Taiwan, a favorite Peking term in the past, but instead spoke of "reunification" with the mainland, suggesting a gradual approach stopping short of actual invasion.
The finessing of the arms issue was a nice diplomatic ploy, allowing the United States to preserve Taiwan's military security while Peking averts its eyes. Nevertheless, the arrangement could cause trouble in the future. From time to time during the last seven years, articles in the Chilness press have argued vigorously for closer U.S. ties. Analysts consider this a sign that important segments of the leadership have expressed doubts about the pro-American course.
An official Peking commentary on foreign trade, for instance, recently went to great extrems to defend the sudden decision to shun the self-reliant economic policy favored by the staunchest disciples of the late party chairman Mao Tse-tung.
A recent series of trade agreements in which China has turned to American money and technology for new hotels and mining equipment seems bound to grow bigger with normalization, but the resulting brush with bourgeois America may not be completely smooth.
American technicians for the Pullman Kellogg Co., which began to build fertilizer plants in China in 1974, said some projects sometimes lagged when Chinese workers objected to Western methods. A recent Peking wall poster praising President Carter's human rights campaign drew a snide reference in a follow-up poster to the questionable worth of depending on a nation that produced the mass suicide and murders of the Peoples Temple in Jonestown.
While the decision to move decisively toward the United States this week may have come after difficult discussions in Peking, the leadership moved quickly to present the move as a collective decision.
Vice chairman Ten Hsiao-ping, about 75, is the most experienced expert on American policy in the leadership and is widely believed to be the architect of the normalization move. He will visit Washington in late January to talk to Carter and perhaps reveal at least privately the fears about growing Soviet and Vietnamese power that may have led to Peking's sudden decision to close a deal with Washington.
But it was Chairman Hua, 57, the junior partner in Peking's ruling coalition despite his hold on the top party, army and government jobs, who appeared at today's press conference in Peking. Hua hailed the normalization decision and answered questions from foreign journalists, an occasion that demonstrated how post-Mao leaders have come to use Westerners to communicate with the Chinese people.
Peking prepared its people for the new relationship with the United States with a remarkable, and relatively flattering series of articles on American life written by a group of Chinese journalists who visited several U.S. cities this summer. Official Chinese news coverage of today's announcement continued the same admiration of Americana.
The official New China News Agency told the story of Li Po-chun, a Peking University student who was reading wallposters on a Peking street corner when he saw the People's Daily extra reporting the U.S. relations announcement. A psychology student and former English teacher, Li was quoted as saying, "I would like to study in the United States, if I get a chance."
The agency said a chess player at the Peking railway station was so enthused at the news that he told his partner, "Even if you beat me, it's a wonderful day."