Chinese Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping began his friendly invasion of grass-roots America today, sweeping through this southern capital on a schedule that ranged from lunching with Georgia's top establishment leaders to buzzing around the assembly lines of an automobile plant in a golf cart.
Alnog the way, Teng continued with the hard-line, anti-Soviet talk that has brought behind-the-scenes discomfort to his hosts in the Carter administration. He accused the Soviet Union of pursuing "a hegemonist policy," and then warned a luncheon audience:
"It is important to oppose and contain hegemonism and upset the strategic plans of the warmongers."
Hegemony is the policy of dominance.
But, for the most part, Teng chose to emphasize the positive -- smiling, returning the applause with his own delight hand-clapping and generally working his audiences with the skill and verve of a seasoned oplitical campaigner.
His main theme was China's desire for reconciliation and cooperation with the United States after three decades of mutual hostility.
He perhaps expressed it bewt at the conclusion of his luncheon speech when he recalled how Atlanta had rebuilt itself after the Civil War.
Then he brought the audience of more than 1,400 to its feet, cheering, by adding: "There is much in your experience from which we can benefit. We would like to learn from you. May the ship of friendship and cooperation between our two peoples surge forward on a steady and fruitful course."
It was a point Teng is expected to make repeatedly as he caps the official part of his visit by jetting around the country on a four-day course in Americana that will take him from here to Houston and Seattle.
En route back to China, Teng is to stop over Tuesday in Japan for three days to meet with Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira. There is no fixed agenda for the talks.
Teng's overnight stop here began this morning when he arrived from Washington, trailed by 220 reporters and photographers and escorted by a covey of high-ranking officials, including Commerce Secretary Juanita M. Kreps and U.S. special trade negotiator Robert S. Strauss.
As was the case in Washington, Teng's reception wasn't unrelievedly cordial. Protesters -- boty rightist anticommunists and extreme leftists from the Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party -- immediately began appearing around his hotel and at other stops on his itinerary.
But the protesters clearly were in the minority. The dominant sentiment here seems to be friendly curiosity and a feeling that normalization of relations with China can only work to U.S. advantage.
Perhaps the best expression of how interested people in Atlanta feel about improved Sino-American relations came from Mayor Maynard Jackson. While introducing Teng, Jackson unabashedly made a pitch for a direct air route between Peking and Atlanta and the establishment here of a Chinese consulate.
Teng's introduction to American industry was a 48 minute tour of the sprawling Ford Motor Co. Assembly plant in Hapeville, outside Atlanta. He was escorted by Leonard Woodcock, head of the U.S. liaison office in Peking and a former president of the United Auto Workers union, but their trip to the Ford plant was made in a Chrysler.
They were greeted by the chairman of the company, Henry Ford II, who came from Detroit for the occasion. Teng and his large entourage climbed into a convoy of three-seat golf carts and took off on an inspection tour, with Teng waving to the workers over the din of clanging metal.
At one point, he paused to shake hands with two workers, one whited and one black, and he later stopped to chat with Walter Hood, 28, who earns $8.13 an hour bolting car bodies to their chassis.
Hood said Teng asked him about his work, the number of hours he puts in and whether he likes his job. Asked what he thought of Teng's visit, Hood replied, "It's all right. It doesn't bother me."
At the end of the toru, Teng stood next to a gold LTD, the only Ford madel assembled here, and, with his hand caressing the hard top of the $7,500 vehicle, asked the plant manager some animated questions about automobile manufacturing.
Teng's first appearance today was a session with southern newspaper publishers and editors. There, he launched his first Atlanta salvo against Moscow, charging that, after the 1953 death of Josef Stalin, the Soviet Union had pursued an imperialist and hegemonist policy aimed at bringing China under SOVIET INFLUENCE.
He then went to the luncheon in the massive ballroom of the Peachtree Plaza Hotel, where more than 1,400 of Georgia's political, business and professional leaders had paid $20 each to see him. His speech there, though focused mainly on Sino-American cooperation, contained some blunt elaboration on his anti-Soviet theme.
"The danger of world war remains, and hegemony is the biggest therat to international peace and security," he said. "History expressly tells us that peace is not reached by prayer alone. It is important to oppose and contain hegemonism and upset the strategic plans of the warmongers."
Then, echoing the plea he made in Washington for the United States to join China in opposing Soviet expansionism, he said:
"China and the United States reaffirm that each is opposed to efforts by any other country to seek hegemony. This is undoubtedly of far-reaching significance for the peace of Asia and of the world."
Among the well-known people who thronged around Teng at the luncheon were two who have figured in a local controversy sparked by his visit -- Coretta Scott King and the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., the widow and father, respectively, of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was murdered in Memphis in 1968.
Local black leaders had been anxious for Teng to visit King's grave here. The failure to include such a visit on Teng's schedule had brought complainsts and attempts to enlist the intervention of U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, a lieutenant of King in the civil rights movement.
At the last minute today, the necessary schedule changes were made,and Teng stopped briefly at King's grave
Standing in a bitterly cold wind before the marble tomb, Teng placed a wreath of daisies and chrysanthemums, and bowed slightly three times before walking over to talk with King's family.
From the gravesite, Teng continued to the Ford assembly plant. Tonight he was guest of honor at a dinner given by Georgia Gov. George Busbee.