Secretary of State George P. Shultz, concluding four days of talks on a gamut of contentious issues, said tonight that he has "set the stage for renewed advances" in the recently slipping relationship between China and the United States.
Shultz was careful not to claim any specific or tangible accomplishments arising from his discussions with Chinese leaders, including 2 1/2 hours today with the most powerful figure, Deng Xiaoping. There was no indication from either side of any advances.
The secretary of state emphasized repeatedly--using the same phrase nine times in a 25-minute press conference--that he sought to build "mutual trust and confidence" as a foundation for easing disagreements and moving ahead to new levels of cooperation.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wu Xueqian, in remarks echoed by other officials, said he was deeply impressed by Shultz's patience and earnestness. While their public and private remarks were positive about Shultz and his mission, however, the Chinese continued to be wary, especially on the Taiwan question.
Speaking at tonight's banquet in the Great Hall of the People, the final event of Shultz's busy stay, Wu reiterated Chinese insistence on strict implementation of established "principles" regarding Taiwan. In Wu's description, Sino-American progress in future relations is conditional on U.S. performance in this area.
While making his point, Wu put forward the Chinese viewpoint in a nonconfrontational fashion, and he made only vague reference to a host of Sino-American differences on international and bilateral questions.
It was unclear whether Peking's worries about Taiwan played a role in Shultz's lack of success in establishing a date for a visit to the United States by Premier Zhao Ziyang next summer or fall, which was formally announced by the White House this morning. The U.S. side had hoped the Zhao trip could be settled and the date announced during Shultz's visit, but the premier said he would have to consult his calendar.
The Washington announcement said only that Zhao had accepted President Reagan's invitation "and will meet with the president on a date to be mutually agreed upon."
There is concern among Chinese officials about reports that the Taiwanese prime minister, Y. S. Sun, may be planning a trip to the United States, a journey that would bring a major political reaction here. But U.S. officials traveling with Shultz said this topic had not been raised in the talks.
Shultz achieved no breakthrough on military cooperation between the two countries. The secretary of state was permitted to meet with Defense Minister Zhang Aiping, but the Chinese did not respond to U.S. proposals for a visit here by Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger or a visit to the United States by a senior Chinese military official capable of paving the way to an arms supply relationship.
"The subject of arms sales didn't arise" during his talks, Shultz said at a press conference tonight. A meeting of lower-level officials to carry forward discussions by Shultz and Defense Minister Zhang was held this afternoon.
Shultz discounted the importance of this session, saying it was "on more or less technical matters" and "not addressed to major military issues."
In sharp contrast to his immediate predecessor, Alexander M. Haig Jr., and many other U.S. officials of the past and present, Shultz did not emphasize the strategic nature of the Sino-U.S. connection.
"Certainly we talked about our relationships with the Soviet Union, the U.S. relationship, the relationship of China with the Soviet Union. That is, of course, something that both parties are interested in. There are aspects of Soviet behavior that affect us both and which we have discussed," said Shultz.
"So, I suppose if you want to call that a strategic relationship, you can," he went on to say. "But I prefer myself to think of our relationship as being a stable and enduring one based on the direct contact between the United States and China and our interest not only in what the Soviet Union may or may not do, but on many other matters of bilateral and international concern."
As described by aides, Shultz believes there have been too many promises and commitments in the Sino-American dialogue without performance, and thus the present moment calls for consolidation and better understanding rather than additional pledges on the U.S. side.
Given the uncertain state of the relationship and intensified controversy in Washington over China's international stand, Shultz probably would not have been able to win administration agreement to new concessions to China without a bruising policy battle.
When a reporter asked Shultz about his confrontation Thursday with American businessmen here, during which Shultz suggested they "move to Japan or Western Europe" if they don't approve of U.S. policies, the secretary of state replied: "I wasn't tough. I was just a little bit annoyed and tired. No big deal."
According to U.S. officials, Shultz made no substantive promises on trade or technology questions, including the stalled textile negotiations and the ticklish problem of licensing China to receive high technology goods and information. He is reported to have explained the problems facing U.S. policy makers in these areas and agreed to use his good offices to look into ways to accommodate Chinese and U.S. interests on technology.
The secretary of state later left for South Korea.