China sharply attacked Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan again today, focusing on new Reagan remarks on Taiwan that appeared to undercut efforts here by his running mate George Bush to mollify the Chinese.
Reagan has made a series of confusing and sometimes contradictory statements on the Taiwan issue. But each time he has been specific, he has seemed to favor some sort of official relations. For its part, Peking seems to be singling out those statements they perceive as affecting their interests most adversely.
A New China News Agency commentary published in the People's Daily said Reagan repeated on Wednesday in Los Angeles his intention "to set up a governmental liaison office in Taiwan, despite China's categorical repudiation of the idea."
The Taiwan question is emerging as a test of Reagan's ability to handle a sensitive foreign policy issue, and the candidate's aides apparently have advised him to limit his comments on the matter while Bush has been seeing top Chinese leaders this week.
Bush, due to leave China this afternoon, has spent much of his three days here playing down Reagan remarks of Aug. 16 supporting an official liaison office in Taiwan. Bush and Richard Allen, Reagan's foreign policy adviser, indicated yesterday that Reagan would have liked to set up such an office, but would not do so since it was barred by the U.S.-Taiwan Relations Act.
The new attack on Reagan by the Chinese said his "repeated statements" in favor of official ties with Taiwan "had deeply hurt the feelings of the 1 billion Chinese people" and "have given rise to widespread concern and indignation in China."
Bush first heard an account of Reagan's latest remarks on Taiwan from a reporter at a U.S. Embassy reception yesterday.
He put his hand to his forehead and groaned, but made no further comment.
The Chinese appear convinced that Bush, himself a former U.S. envoy here, does not favor a restoration of official ties with Taiwan, but cannot publicly contradict the leader of his ticket. Today's Chinese commentary did not mention Bush and a picture of him meeting Vice Chairman Deng Xiaoping yesterday was published on a different page of the People's Daily.
The Chinese object to official U.S. ties with Taiwan because they want no doubt cast on their claim to be the sole government of all of China. Peking did not agree to normalize relations with Washington in 1978 until the Carter administration promised to cut off all official links with the island.
American interests on Taiwan are now handled by an unofficial "institute" staffed by personnel temporarily retired from the State Department.
The Chinese commentary said today Reagan's decision to "turn back the clock" was "indeed surprising." It said "Reagan argued that China had misunderstood his remarks but that he did not mean to create 'two Chinas,' but who would believe it? To enter into 'governmental relations' or 'official relations' with Taiwan means to create 'two Chinas.' What other interpretation can there be?
"Reagan said that he does not mean to carry forward relations with China. This is nonsense. How can he further the relations with China when he flouts the will of the 1 billion Chinese people on a major issue involving China's territorial integrity and sovereignty?"