China today criticized the Reagan administration's "obstinate stand" on arms sales to Taiwan as Assistant Secretary of State John Holdridge opened talks with Chinese officials here in hopes of convincing them that a compromise on the issue is possible.
Diplomatic sources said that Holdridge, who arrived here last night, is trying to push the Chinese toward acceptance of a Reagan administration decision to replenish Taiwan's existing arsenal of F5E fighters, while forswearing U.S. sales of the more advanced FX fighter sought by Taiwan's Nationalist Chinese government.
The Chinese criticism followed reports of that decision, which was confirmed in Washington today. Details on Page A11
Although it did not mention the F5Es specifically, a midday commentary issued by the official New China News Agency said that the nation's "principled stand against any U.S. arms sales to Taiwan is consistent and definite."
"The current problems in Sino-American relations, in China's view, purely result from, among other things, Washington's obstinate stand on arms sales to Taiwan, one of China's provinces," said the commentary, which was later aired over Chinese radio and television.
China, in increasingly strident tones, has threatened to downgrade its relations with the United States if the Reagan administration sells sophisticated weapons to Taiwan, which broke away from the mainland after the Communist victory in 1949.
Diplomatic analysts here believe that China has recently mortgaged too much of its credibility and pride to back down from its warnings unless Washington agrees at least in principle to stop arms sales to Taiwan and sets a cutoff date.
Today's reiteration of Chinese resolve on this issue came in the official news agency report that was, ironically, devoted to a piece written by Holdridge's predecessor as assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Richard Holbrooke.
Holbrooke wrote in a column published yesterday by the New York Times that Washington would be foolish to give up the strategic benefits of good relations with Peking for the chance to sell a new fighter to Taiwan that it does not need.
A well-informed diplomat noted, "So many hard words have been said that I doubt any compromise will be possible unless the Americans impose a certain limit on quantity, quality and time. It's not a matter of FX or F5E for China. It's a matter of principle."
The Holdridge mission here remained shrouded in secrecy with the Chinese Foreign Ministry saying only that he met with Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Wenjin and other officials "to exchange views on international and bilateral questions of common concern."
Holdridge declined comment as he left the U.S. Embassy here tonight for a meeting with Chinese authorities at a state guest house in central Peking. He was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador Arthur Hummel and staff.
Although details were scant, Holdridge was said to have told Chinese officials of the White House decision to continue supplying Taiwan with F5E fighters, which, while less advanced than the FX, are regarded as more sophisticated than anything in the mainland Air Force.
Diplomatic analysts believed Holdridge softened the news by reporting the administration's decision against selling Taipei more high-powered weaponry, such as the FX aircraft or new F5G Tiger Shark sought by the Nationalist Chinese.
It remained unclear, however, whether Washington has agreed to provide technological improvements of the F5E. The unimproved aircraft was sold to Taiwan by the Carter administration.
Foreign analysts believe Holdridge presented the administration plan as a compromise measure partially satisfying Taipei's request for "defensive" weapons and Peking's demand for an end to American involvement in Chinese domestic affairs.
While publicly urging American abstinence in its arms sales to Taiwan, Peking has privately suggested a compromise that apparently failed to win favor with the Reagan administration, according to informed Chinese sources.
The Chinese compromise would allow Washington to continue the level of arms sales permitted during the Carter years. In return, Washington would agree to cut off all weapons sales to Taiwan within a certain period of time, Chinese sources reported.
There were public hints of this proposal Dec. 31 when the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said that Peking would be "reasonable" in settling the issue through negotiation as long as Washington accepts the "fundamental principle" of no arms sales to Taiwan.
Foreign analysts said anything short of this solution--which reportedly was proposed by Foreign Minister Huang Hua during his Washington visit in late October--would probably be considered an unacceptable "loss of face" to Peking.
After downgrading diplomatic ties with the Netherlands last year after the Dutch submarine sale to Taiwan, Peking would look weak if it backed down to the stronger Americans, said an Asian diplomat.