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Diplomats see Beijing hard-liners increasingly left out in the cold

November 2, 1989

by Guy Dinmore, Reuter News Service
Published: Thursday, Nov. 2, 1989 12:00 a.m. MST

While President Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev plan their first summit in the Mediterranean sun next month, diplomats see China’s new hard-line leaders increasingly left out in the cold.

Just hours before Washington and Moscow announced Tuesday their surprise summit, China launched a harsh attack on the United States, harangued France for supporting dissidents and expelled two Hong Kong citizens from a law-drafting body.

Diplomats said while the developments were clearly not connected, they reflected China’s increasingly isolationist stance. “There is definitely a worldwide current turning away from China,” a senior diplomat said. “They have lost their magnetism of being a challenging and most interesting development in the world. The magic has gone,” he added.

Western diplomats said it was too early to tell whether there had been a strategic shift in the delicate triangular relationship among China, the Soviet Union and the United States.

Since soldiers and tanks crushed pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing in June, China’s leaders have tried to pin some of the blame on what they call Western subversion.

The new official catch phrase is “peaceful evolution” – meaning Western attempts to subvert communism through ideas and influence rather than force.

Senior leader Deng Xiaoping, at 85 still apparently in control of foreign policy, accused the United States of being “too deeply involved” in the unrest. It was up to the United States, Deng said, to take the initiative and repair damaged relations.

Like most Western countries, the United States responded to the June crackdown by suspending high-level contacts, military cooperation and official loans. “There is a large group in the leadership which is strongly anti-American. There is a great fear that out of the U.S. there is a very strong movement which undermines socialism,” the senior diplomat said.

Former President Richard Nixon, on a private visit to China, told reporters after meeting Deng that Sino-American relations were facing their worst situation since 1972.

But China has fared little better with its communist friends.

Hungary and Poland are in the process of casting off more than 40 years of communism, resulting in a distinct cooling of relations with China.

In the developing world, Grenada, Liberia and Belize have in quick succession switched diplomatic recognition to China’s nationalist rival Taiwan, lured by attractive loans.

Diplomats said a more isolationist China need not mean serious repercussions in the region, except possibly for Hong Kong, where China has accused Britain of allowing its colony to be used as a base for anti-communist subversion.
Beijing was continuing talks with Indonesia on establishing diplomatic relations and contacts with India were also going on.

A fourth round of talks with the Soviet Union on their disputed border made some progress this week, according to a Chinese statement, which also noted the significance for the negotiations of last May’s Sino-Soviet summit, the first in 30 years.

But at home China’s 1.1 billion people are starting to feel the brunt of the new policy.

Foreign values and material goods are under attack. Passports to leave the country are more difficult to obtain. Friendships with foreigners, especially journalists and diplomats, are under closer scrutiny.

On Tuesday, the official newspaper Economic Information slammed Chinese who wasted scarce foreign exchange on things like American soft drinks and popcorn and Spanish bubblegum.

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