China and the Soviet Union signed three accords on economic and technical cooperation today as the highest ranking Soviet official to come to China in more than 15 years prepared to end his nine-day visit.
The accords were signed by visiting Soviet First Deputy Premier Ivan Arkhipov and Chinese Vice Premier Yao Yilin at a ceremony in Peking's Great Hall of the People.
The documents call for the exchange of production technologies, joint design and construction of factories and training of technical personnel; exchange of scientific and technical data, and the creation of a joint committee to supervise economic and scientific cooperation, the official New China News Agency reported tonight.
Although no additional details were available, these accords are likely to provide the framework for Soviet assistance in upgrading and refurbishing some of the factories that were built with the help of Soviet advisers and technology in the 1950s.
Arkhipov said at a banquet in the Soviet Embassy, "These are important documents, important questions and important agreements. They will deepen the mutual trust and understanding between the two countries and create a good atmosphere," United Press International reported.
Yao told the diners that Arkhipov's visit "had important significance for mutual understanding and development of Sino-Soviet relations and helped advance normalization," The Associated Press reported.
But Yao cautioned, "Although we have signed three agreements, we must translate them into reality. There is a large amount of work to be done. I believe that as long as the two sides adopt a positive attitude, the obstacles on the road before us can be overcome."
Although diplomats said there did not appear to be any breakthroughs on the political front, Arkhipov's visit and the resulting agreements in the nonpolitical fields are likely to improve the overall impetus for normalizing the strained relations between the two communist rivals since they began their strategic and ideological quarrel about 25 years ago.
Moreover, Peking has scored a success of sorts because Moscow's most senior envoy also visited China's most successful special economic zone, which applies reforms that Moscow has criticized.
A Chinese spokesman announced earlier this week that the two countries intend to sign a fourth accord -- next year -- on long-term trade to cover the five years from 1986 to 1990. That accord is likely to boost trade from the $1.6 billion estimated for next year to about $6 billion in 1990, about the level of current trade between China and the United States.
Even then, it is unlikely that China's trade with the Soviet Union will account for more than 5 percent of its annual foreign trade, western analysts said. Trade with the Soviet Union accounted for nearly 50 percent of China's annual foreign trade when relations were at their height in 1959, according to experts.
Arkhipov has been unusually warmly received by the Chinese. But, as one western diplomat said, "that warmth has been directed at him for his personal contributions and not necessarily at the relationship."
The 77-year-old economics minister, whom the Chinese have described as an "old friend," headed the huge Soviet aid program here in the 1950s. Arkhipov helped map out and implement China's first five-year-plan. Chinese leaders have embraced him warmly, and in a marked departure from the past, he was called a "comrade" by his Chinese counterparts.
Although both sides had stressed the economic focus of the visit, Peking has gone to some effort to play down the political differences over the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, Soviet support for Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia, and the buildup of troops along the Chinese border.
Yesterday, in a departure from past years, the official Chinese Communist Party newspaper, People's Daily, carried no articles on the fifth anniversary of Moscow's intervention in Afghanistan. Diplomats speculated that Peking chose not to touch on a potentially embarrassing subject while Arkhipov was here.
During his earlier talks with Chinese leaders and in his visit to China's south, Arkhipov also emphasized the importance of the visit and of improved relations in recent years.
"In the past few years, China and the Soviet Union have maintained regular contacts and exchanges in the international arena, which shows that both sides have the desire to return to the years of friendship of the past," he said in a toast to the mayor of the special economic zone of Shenzhen.
Indeed, his tour of Shenzhen was unprecedented. Despite Moscow's public criticism of the urban economic reforms, Arkhipov's presence "was an implicit endorsement of what the Chinese are doing," said one western diplomat.
In touring the special zone on the border with Hong Kong, Arkhipov showed interest in the financing of the enterprises, how foreign investment was attracted, and the amount of profits, according to Hong Kong newspapers.
Shenzhen is the most successful of the four special economic zones along the southeast coast. Created in 1979, it offers corporate tax breaks and other preferential treatment to investors to bring in foreign currency and expand domestic and export markets. By November, it had signed more than 3,000 agreements involving foreign investment of $2.14 billion, according to the New China News Agency.