PEKING— China and East Germany held talks here this week that seem to point to a significant strengthening of their ties, against a background of rapidly expanding Chinese contacts with several East European countries.

Chinese press reports on the talks held here by Horst Sindermann, president of the East German legislature and member of the German Communist Party politburo, revealed that Sindermann had been given a warm and high-level reception. Sources said that one report appearing in a Chinese “internal” publication, not intended for wide distribution, said that the East German Communist Party leader Erich Honecker might visit here next year. The publication displayed the report prominently.

Parallel with an improvement in its relations with the Soviet Union, Peking has for more than year now been expanding its ties with East European nations allied with the Soviets. An expansion of ties with East Germany would fit with the emphasis which China has placed in recent years on conveying an independent foreign policy image.

An East German embassy official responded cautiously to a query concerning a possible visit by Honecker to China but acknowledged that it was a possibility. He said that no date had been set. Should Honecker come to China next year, it could turn out to be the first top-level visit by the leader of a country closely tied to the Soviet Union in more than two decades.

Sindermann leaves here Friday following a visit to Shanghai.

China currently has extensive relations with West Germany, which is China’s fourth largest trading partner. Its leading trading part nears are Japan, the United States, and Hong Kong.

In a report released earlier this week on the Sindermann visit, the official New China News Agency quoted China’s Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang as saying that China and East Germany should greatly increase their. trade in a wide range of areas. The news agency said that at a meeting Monday with Hu, Sindermann conveyed Honecker’s best regards to Hu, who, in return, asked Sindermann to convey his greetings to Honecker. Hu and Honecker are believed to have met more than two decades ago when the two held similar positions as Communist Youth League Leaders.


Diplomats said it was significant that the official Chinese news agency referred to Sindermann at one point by his politburo title, a courtesy not always accorded to the East Germans, because the two countries have had no formal communist party relations for more than 20 years.

The Chinese have long had fairly good relations with Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Romania, all of which have pursued certain economic and political policies which differed from those of the Soviets. But diplomats said that an improvement of relations with East Germany a country closely linked to Soviet Union could only come if the Soviets approved of the development and perhaps saw it as reinforcing their own improving links with the Chinese.

A Western diplomat said today that the Chinese do not lump all of the East Europeans together with the Soviets when it comes to technology. In some areas, the Chinese apparently regard the Est. Germans, the Czechs, and Hungarians as holding a major edge over the Soviets in the development and management of new technologies. Diplomats believe that one of the reasons for China’s expanding contacts with East European nations is the possible benefits to be gained from technology exchanges with those countries.

The Chinese signed a major, five-year trade agreement with the Soviets in July of this year and now apparently regard their trade with most East European countries as abnormally low.

But there are limits on how far the Chinese can go in trading with either the Soviets or their East European partners. The biggest constraint is that most of the trade with the East Bloc countries is conducted on a cumbersome barter basis. Unlike Western nations, the Soviet Bloc nations are not capable of paying for much that they import from China in hard currency. The other constraint is a continuing reliance on Western nations to be the main providers of technology for China’s modernization program.

“We hear from the Chinese all the time that they really look to the West for what they want, and primarily the United States,” a Western diplomat said.

“They clearly look down a bit contemptuously on Soviet technology,” he said.

Earlier this year, Chinese Vice Premier Li Peng is reported to have presided over a major conference aimed at improving trade relations with Eastern Europe. Li is currently on a nine day visit to Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria lasting until Dec. 22. An East European diplomat said that the vice premier, who is considered one of China’s fastest rising political figures, will stop in Moscow on his way back to Peking.

Article extracted from this publication >>  December 27, 1985