He alights from the limousine or airplane to a scattering of applause, and he applauds in return. He raises his right hand and waves in greeting, then plunges into handshakes, a rare bear hug for a special friend, and the translated perfunctory hellos.
He looks nowhere near his 74 years, and sometimes his eyes glisten with the combination of uncertainty and fascination that is characteristic more of youth than age.
He reads the prepared speeches and toasts in rhythmic, almost musical Chinese, and rarely deviates. Once he tired and simply told his translator to read whole pages from the English text while he skipped them in the Asian tongue.
He is direct and responsive, but not spontaneous. Unless it has been scheduled and planned, considered and agreed on in advance, the chances are strong it will not be done.
These impressions of Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping, now on the final stop of his eight-day journey before leaving the United States Monday morning, shed light on the stylized interation between the Chinese leader and his American hosts.
The first official visit to the United States by a senior Chinese Communist official has been notably different from the first visit 20 years ago by the leader of Soviet communism, Nikita S. Khrushchev. To a reporter who covered them both, the Teng trip in setting, personality and impact is pale by comparison. It is hard to remember the sensation that Khrushchev caused, from the welcoming parade in an open car with President Eisenhower past large but strangely silent crowds, through the Russian's earthy peasant aphorisms and rhetorical outbursts in Hollywood and elsewhere and his colorful challenges, in farm and factory, for Americans to compete with the Soviet system.
Teng's trip has been nothing like that. Outside of pro-Taiwan and American Maoist fringe groups, who demonstrated side by side against Teng here today, there has been little in the way of crowds craning to see him. Security is much tighter, because of the assassination attempts on presidents and the rise of the security cordons in the two decades. This accounts for some, but not all, of the relatively smaller direct public involvement this time.
Part of the difference is the schedule. Khrushchev spent 13 days in the United States, more than half of it on his national tour of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Iowa and Pittsburgh. The Soviet leader complained about being confined and restricted, and so at times has the Chinese leader. But Teng has seen and done much less, and in deference to his age, his schedule has been far lighter.
In Seattle today, for example, on his last full day in the United States, Teng skipped a previously arranged boat tour of Seattle harbor and spent the morning with aides and only a few callers, including former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger and Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.). He planned to attend a luncheon of 600 people in his honor given by civic and business leaders, spend a little more than an hour at a Boeing aircraft factory, and attend a dinner for about 70 people given by five big businessmen interested in China trade.
Following the meeting with Teng, Jackson reiterated his view that China will certainly qualify for an exemption to the Jackson-Vanik amendment tying U.S. trade benefits to the emigration policy of communist nations.
Asked if the United States would have to take in some of the millions China could release under liberal emigration policies, Jackson said that U.S. immigration policy is an entirely different question because of a strict quota system. "The smallest percentage would come to the United States," Jackson said.
The hawkish Washington senator received a Teng embrace on arrival here Saturday night. At today's luncheon, the Chinese leader smiled appreciatively when Jackson said, "We share your concern about the growth of Soviet military power and... the Soviet effort to expand its influence in Africa, the Mideast and Asia."
Teng was flanked at the head table by the two men whose companies paid for the lunch, chairman T. A. Wilson of Boeing, who would like to sell more airplanes to the Peking government, and Chairman Edward Carlson of UAL Inc., parent company for United Airlines and Western International Hotels, which would like air routes and hotel rights from the Chinese.
Teng looked a little more tired today than at the start of the trip and appeared to have a slight cold.
Knowledgeable officials said Teng can fall asleep easily, and that he catnapped during some of the lengthy open spaces on his public schedule. Since he rarely commented directly on his impressions of what he has seen, the Americans traveling with his official party could only surmise, on the basis of expression and animation, what has pleased or interested him.
One U.S. official traveling with Teng called him "a consummate showman," a description also applied two decades ago to Khrushchev. However, the Chinese smile and Chinese style is far more subtle. Khrushchev's emotions, real or contrived, were always bubbling from the surface, while Teng's feelings have usually been hidden.
Most of what Teng has said and seen was planned in elaborate detail before the Chinese party left Peking. "There was a developed scenario, and it is being carried out," said an American source.
It was decided beforehand, for example, that there would be no open press conference by Teng while he was in the United States, apparently because the Chinese leader is apprehensive about answering questions on television. He told the four network anchors who interviewed him in Washington, in his only spontaneous television appearance, that he had worried a great deal about appearing before them.
According to a senior Chinese official, a great deal of advance work went into deciding exactly what Teng would say in his various appearances. He indicated this was done before leaving China. American officials, on the other hand, believe the Chinese decided to tone down some of the hard anti-Soviet rhetoric during the later stages of his current road trip because "he had made his point" in Washington and Atlanta.
Teng, who was twice deposed from high position and twice restored to power, is nominally the third-ranking Chinese official and must answer in important degree to a collective leadership. Khrushchev, on the other hand, was almost completely secure in his leadership in 1959, although he was toppled from power five years later.
The Chinese leader was certain from the very first about what he wanted to see. When U.S. Ambassador Leonard Woodcock asked him on Jan. 1 in Peking, Teng replied without hesitation, "Space and your advanced technology."
Following his wishes and a White House decision that he not be shown military equipment or anything else the United States would not sell to China, Teng has seen an automobile plant in Atlanta (less advanced than a plant he had seen in Japan) an oil drilling bit manufacturing plant near Houston, impressive but now-obsolete equipment at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center at Houston, and Boeing's commercial airliner factory at Everett, near Seattle, where three Chinese 747s are on order.
The Russians on the eve of Khrushchev's trip had been the first nation to hit the moon with an unmanned rocket from earth, and the Soviet leader with supreme pride presented Eisenhower and others with some rocket models to rub in his claim of technological superiority.
The Chinese, on the other hand, know they are far behind. "They perceive us as the most advanced society, and they idealize us and look for magic coming out of their new [American] connection," said an official traveling with Teng. The space center and the factories and the glossy new hotels that Teng has seen have tended to confirm the Chinese view of the United States as the advanced society, and the television reports of the trip relayed back home have spread the impression to the Chinese people.
The United States has had 20 years more experience with the world since Khruschev was here, and through television people are far more accustomed to seeing leaders of communist nations. China was not, at any time, the direct military threat to the United States that the Soviet Union was and is.
Teng seems to understand the differences. He has appealed to this country for friendship cooperation and alliance against the Russian "hegemonists." He has never confronted or threatened his hosts. It is all much smoother, but much less electric and sensational.