Chinese Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang today called for increased cooperation between China and Western Europe in order to offset the division of the world into blocs dominated by the superpowers.

Hu, who is nearing the end of a four-nation tour of Western Europe, has also promised that China's economic modernization program would continue even after the retirement of the present generation of Chinese leaders. He was speaking at a joint press conference with French President Francois Mitterrand, following visits to Britain, France and West Germany.

Hu, 71, regarded as a likely successor to the 81-year-old Deng Xiaoping, China's senior leader, flew to Italy today for a five-day official visit. He said at the press conference that his trip to Western Europe, the first by a general secretary of the 40-million strong Chinese Communist Party, had been "crowned with success."

Hu said he had been impressed by what he had seen in Western Europe, whose governments are competing among themselves to tap the vast potential market for high technology goods offered by China.

At a press conference in London at the beginning of his trip, Hu said he might retire at the party congress next year so that "younger comrades can assume greater responsibility." Chinese analysts noted, however, that other Chinese leaders have called for "prestigious revolutionaries" such as Hu and Deng to remain politically active.

Both Hu and Mitterrand said that, while France and China have different viewpoints on some issues, they share similar views on many international questions, notably on a refusal to accept the polarization of the world between the two superpowers.

"We have decided not to accept an alliance with any great power," said Hu, adding that China was in favor of a politically united Western Europe.

Asked about Soviet calls for a ban on nuclear testing, Hu said that such a moratorium was pointless as long as the Soviet Union and the United States continued to possess huge nuclear arsenals. He reiterated that China favored total nuclear disarmament.

"At a time when the superpowers are continuing their arms buildup and accumulating nuclear armaments, it is desirable that other nuclear powers conserve a certain nuclear capacity," he said.

Hu replied with a sarcastic laugh when asked about France's arrangement in political power-sharing, called "cohabitation," which has reportedly intrigued Chinese leaders. Like other foreign visitors, Hu has been received by both Mitterrand, a Socialist, and conservative Prime Minister Jacques Chirac.

While conceding that there were differences of opinion between Chinese leaders on development strategy, Hu denounced as "totally false" reports that there were rival factions of reformers and hard-liners in the Chinese Communist Party.

While in Paris, Hu reached an agreement in principle for a French firm, Framatome, to supply reactors for China's first nuclear power station. Acknowledging that the project had caused concern in neighboring Hong Kong after the Chernobyl disaster, Hu said China could not turn its back on nuclear technology even though it was "dangerous." He said stringent safety standards would be applied.