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Digital Archive International History Declassified

February 04, 1989


This document was made possible with support from the MacArthur Foundation

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    "Diary of Teimuraz Stepanov-Mamaladze, 4 February 1989," February 04, 1989, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Hoover Institution Archive, Teimuraz Stepanov-Mamaladze Papers: Diary No. 8. Translated by Sergey Radchenko.
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4 February 1989

Shanghai, judging by everything, is a “different league,” a “different class” of China. A different quality of the state of the country—judging by the landscape, architecture, the external appearance of the Shanghainese, the interior of the residence, where we are housed.

Shanghai is not at all Shanghai of our Russian, Soviet understanding, which associates Asian slums and ruin with this name. That is, there used to be, and, evidently, there still are in Shanghai neighborhoods of beggar self-built slums, but there is also the noble layer, upon which grows modern culture—of industry, of livelihood or of business relations.

There used to be “sores” of capitalism in Shanghai on the “healthy” body of national destitution. Without them, there would have been no present-day Shanghai—electronic-[one word unclear]-super-modernist. And that the “architect of new China,” old man Deng, waited for us in Shanghai, in the vicinity of his “special economic zones”—spoke volumes.

We did not have to go far—Deng lived behind the wall of the neighboring “guest house.” We got into a car, drove outside the gates into other gates, went for a hundred meters through luxurious subtropics and entered a small reception, densely packed with TV cameras and hot bodies of the reporters. In the rustle, flashes and lights there showed up a little Chinese in a mouse-[coloured] suit: a flat, slightly sloped forehead, the face is broader at the jaws than from the chin to the combed greyish hairline…

He showed up fresh, lively, friendly, but all of this liveliness had the dead mechanism of a toy puppet. A brilliant smile, exposing the master skill of the Chinese teeth implantators, a firm handshake or, rather, leather-shake [reference to the artificial feeling], and a demonstration of excellent memory.

He showed it on I[gor] Rogachev—recalled him as a baby-interpreter, and on others of our [side]—N. Fedorenko, O. Rakhmanin…

He remembered? God knows this eighty-five-year-old helmsman-architect, who has lived through so much in his Communist lifetime and who has not lost sense.

We were taken to a small, simply decorated—with the exception of the tsar’s place—room; Deng and E.A. sat themselves in the deep armchairs; behind them three interpreters positioned themselves—two Chinese and one of ours; a pretty, Europeanized, young Chinese woman with glasses attached herself behind Deng’s back; the master began to smoke—and it began.

I can’t remember from what. It seems that the old man asked whether it was E.A.’s first time in China, the latter replied; Deng said that one cannot acquaint oneself with the country so simply.

- True, China has a smaller territory than the Soviet Union, the biggest country in the world. Canada comes after it, and only then—China, but we still have a huge country, and one needs more contacts, in order that people know each other better. There were periods in history, when our relations moved through zigzags. There was a period when we knew each other better. Then there appeared a break of 20 years. Now we have to start a new.

E.A.: I recall your words that one must put an end to the past.

Deng: Yes, one must end with the past and open the future. This is an extremely difficult task, the solution of which touches on extremely difficult, complicated questions. In order to better solve it, one must know the past. But this does not mean to stir it. The knowledge of the past must have a limit. One must simply know, remember, and account for the past. And the main thing, one needs to open the future. If one were to take the history of civilization as a whole, it counts no more than two thousand years. But the future is limitless…

- This is very wise!—E.A. reacted admiringly.

- You and I believe in Communism—Deng picked up the escaping thought—this is our ideal. I do not know how much time is needed to build Communism. In any case, not two thousand years…

Huh, you old orthodox! He is planting a market economy inside the country, declares the slogan “one country, two systems,” and continues to pray to the old gods.

Or is he being hypocritical?

- There is a truth, hypocritically wise-mans E.A., one should not take the ashes from the past, but the fire.

With every possible ceremonial sophistication, he passes M. Gorbachev’s personal message to Deng Xiaoping.

- I was already given a copy of the letter, says Deng. I read it and saw: we both want that our affairs get on well. I will not respond to him in writing. Convey my gratitude in words. Although you do not celebrate the Spring Holiday [Chinese New Year], I congratulate comrade Gorbachev. Convey to him that I congratulate him on this holiday. As far as I understand, our meeting must close the past and open the future. The main thing here is the very fact of our meeting, and not the talks. Let others conduct the talks, but for me it is sufficient to meet. We had a twenty year break, one cannot underestimate this fact. The exchange of visits of Ministers of Foreign Affairs means that the process of normalization has begun. The main event of this process is the summit. One must normalize relations between China and the Soviet Union, and for this I must meet with Gorbachev.

The tiny old man in a mouse-colored suit was building a monument to himself before everyone present. He spoke about himself as about a messiah, about his life, as about a mission, without completing which, he has no right to leave us.

- I consider that this is the main role, which I must carry out after the defeat of the “gang of four.” If you want to know my opinion, I would like for China to be able to make its contribution to the world and rid itself of a century-long backwardness. For this, it is necessary to improve relations with big countries, first and foremost, from the point of view of strengthening the sovereignty and independence of the country. It was not only I who put this goal before myself and aspired towards it. Many things began under comrade Mao Zedong. For example, the normalization of relations with the USA. At the time, there was Nixon’s visit to us, the Shanghai communique was agreed upon. In 1979 I carried out a visit to Washington. The main question that existed between us then was the Taiwan question. After the Second [World] War the USA turned Taiwan into an unsinkable aircraft career. One had to attain the break-off of diplomatic relations between the USA and Taibei, to withdraw American forces from there. All of that was achieved. From the legal point of view, the status of Taiwan has been defined finally and irreversibly. China has the right to use any means to return Taiwan. The second big task was the normalization of relations with Japan. We did it in 1978. Problems remain but relations entered a normal course. The third is Xianggang [Hong Kong]. This was a very difficult question, because Xianggang is, in essence, the last colony. Though I once told to one Englishman that there are also the Falkland Islands… We put forward a slogan: “one countries, two regimes.” It is profitable to us and does not touch on the prestige and self-esteem of the Englishmen. Moreover, it does not hit the interests of the Xianggang residents. There is now a GDP per capita of 7-8 thousand USD there. It is a lot less here. If we were to take the profits and the well-being of the Xianggang residents, we would make them into a burden for China and create a multitude of problems for ourselves. This is no good. Let them live like they used to live, and pass to us their knowledge and experience…

Deng lit the second cigarette. His monologue, his confession, reached its culmination:

- What else is left? Sino-Soviet relations. I would like to see a solution to this problem while I am still alive.

And, judging from his state, he does not have long to live. And therefore he is in a hurry. But even in haste, he does not forget about honor—his, and his country’s.

- You remember, we talked about the three obstacles on the road to normalization of our relations? The first is the military presence of Vietnam in Kampuchea. We said that the Soviet Union has things to do in this direction. I also said that if this obstacle was removed, I would be prepared to go to Moscow and that the very fact of the meeting would mean the normalization of our relations. Therefore, there were three obstacles but we focused on one but that does not mean that one can put aside the other two obstacles. But one way or another, if slowly, but still the Kampuchean problem is being solved. Do you think it is possible?

E.A. received a chance to squeeze himself into the monologue of the great old man.

- I think that the problem has a real basis [for solution]. There are no doubts in that the timetable of withdrawal of forces will be implemented. And this is not because the Vietnamese listened to us. Just the internal and the external situations do not leave them with any other options.

- I would like to ask, to what extent can one believe the Vietnamese?

Judging by everything, this is a manner of Deng’s to ask questions, knowing the answers beforehand. This is a method of persuading one’s counterpart, who feels flattered that his opinion is interesting to such [an important] person. But E.A. really did have a prepared answer:

- I have no doubts that the Vietnamese will honestly carry out their commitments. Among other things, they have no moral right to fail us.

Deng: I have several reservations. I know the Vietnamese more and better than you. I would like very much for what you have said to be confirmed in practice. But the situation is very serious.

Deng Xiaoping starts on a new topic that worries him: “don’t believe these faith-breaking Vietnamese!”

- What happened to Vietnam was an unpleasant surprise to us (E.A. was saying the same thing to Suharto—T.S.). I know the Vietnamese leadership very well. China made if not greater than, certainly no lesser, contribution to the struggle for the Vietnamese independence than the Soviet Union. We went hungry ourselves but we gave Vietnam everything necessary. This continued up until the mid-[19]70s. When Le Duan visited with us, I advised him to create a regular army. We helped them turn guerilla units into a regular army. And after all of this, they began the campaign of expelling the Chinese, even took away their clothes.

Everyone is talking about Pol Pot’s crimes but the Vietnamese were armed with his methods! Deng is speaking, gesturing wildly; fingers are trembling.

- All of this taught me a lesson. We were too naïve. And you don’t understand why we are asking you such a question: can one trust the Vietnamese? We know for a fact that they are dressing up their soldiers, using ethnic Vietnamese for this, arming them. Did the Vietnamese really give up on the idea of creating the Indochinese federation? The thought does not leave me that the Kampuchean problem will be resolved formally but the remaining problems will hang like a black shadow over our countries. I confess: I was too naïve. I advise you: don’t be so.

Of course, you can get stuck with the Vietnamese. But how do you say that? And how do you come short of admitting the range of required issues?

- The resolution of the Kampuchean problem is a completely realistic affair [says Shevardnadze]. All real Kampuchean patriots desire a settlement. Second, the external aspect, the factor of the UN and international control. Even if the Vietnamese thought up some combination, they would not be able to realize it. Third, ASEAN countries. They are gaining weight and power, and Vietnam is interested in developing relations with them. Fourth, Soviet-Vietnamese relations. I do not think that Hanoi will dare failing us. Fifth, the Vietnamese want to settle their relations with the PRC. They understand that the key problem here is Kampuchea. About the confederation—I do not honestly believe that someone seriously contemplates this idea. Even the current pro-Vietnamese Laotian leadership will not fall for that. The Vietnamese cannot help but understand that the world is changing. The idea of a new world political order, advanced by you, is reasonable and just. The basis of such order is being put into place. Look at how America changed. Once upon a time, Reagan called the Soviet Union “evil empire” but now it recognizes its right to exist. We have also changed. And has not the attitude towards China changed? Recall how the USA hated China. But today none of my counterparts there will say a bad word about you. 85% of those polled in Europe, and 65% in the USA believe that now the threat to the peace does not come from socialism. Can the Vietnamese fail to take all of this into account? The very term “internationalist aid” appears outdated today. There is no single dressed-up soldier of ours in Afghanistan. But was it correct to make the decision to send forces to Afghanistan?

After this energetic defense of Vietnam, E.A. turned to attack by flattering:

- We are attentively studying your words. It is impossible to buy a volume of your works [for being so popular]. Already the second edition is to appear…

Deng knocked off the ball of compliments:

- I am afraid that there are not too many useful thoughts there. One has to continue working…

E.A. tried for a moment to settle with Deng the question of the date of the visit, but he brushed him off:

- This you decide without me. Keep working.

He was asked to sign four copies of his book, which came out [in the Soviet Union], and when he began doing it, everyone could see that he is hopelessly frail and will depart soon.

Work continued in the airplane. The elders—[worked] on the text of the joint statement, and I—on the information for the press and on the statement for the press-conference. I managed—the elders did not. The text was left without agreement. Qian left the affair. And instead of going to the press conference, we went to the Embassy to discuss and debate what to do.

While we discussed and debated, a phone telegram from Qian Qichen was received through the head of the press department of the M[inistry of] F[oreign] A[ffairs] of the PRC: “until complete agreement of the joint statement on Kampuchea, the two sides abstain from announcing the time of the summit.”

How can one understand this? And what, after all, happened? Where and when? Why have the Chinese become so stubborn?

Rogachev is saying that they are hoping to bargain for more, [they are] playing the game of “squeezing to the end.”

E.A. asks him to phone Qian and agree on the last meeting. Response: “Good, in the airport, after your press-conference.”

It [the press-conference] begins with a two-hour delay. Without announcing the time of the visit, E.A. gave a time: “in the middle of May.”

We went to the airport. Qian waited for us with his team. These were completely different people.

E.A. proposed to publish the agreed text, and to formalize the points that have not been agreed as either a protocol record or as an “internal understanding” (as the final resort). Qian, with a strained smile, said something completely ugly.

- Your visit was successful. But we need to establish relations, which would not have elements of unpredictability and changeability. Nothing should cast a shadow over our relations in the future (That’s what it is! Isn’t he carrying out Deng’s directive?) The two sides must keep their word.

At this point I raised my eyes to E.A. and saw: he became purple, took on a dark color.

- The statement is your initiative [continued Qian Qichen]. In Moscow you told us that you’d think about it. In Paris, you responded with agreement. And now, when great work has been done, something is happening that is completed unexpected to us.

The accent, the Paris accent on agreement, on the readiness to work on the statement on Kampuchea, came to mind. Even then I paid attention to the cursive: “We did what you asked for.” And now, in a completely insolent manner Qian blames us for not keeping our word.

- You said that each side must keep its word, begins E.A. This is a necessary norm of relations between people and countries. I would like to remind you of your words that the Vietnamese must firmly state the timetable for the withdrawal of their forces. We did it… Now we are only talking about one point. I am confident: if we publish it, we will cause complications. You yourself suggested the form of “internal understanding.” Let us use it.

- This one point, says Qian Qichen, will not prevent you from flying to Islamabad. Your people will stay behind here. We will work some more.

-If the question cannot be solved by the ministers, it is doubtful that it can be solved by the underlings.

Nevertheless, we fly away. A night-hour flight: Beijing-Ulaanbaatar -Irkutsk -Nizhneudinsk- Ust-Kamenogorsk- Tashkent- Termez-Islamabad. And all these long hours of flight we worked on the Beijing papers and kept wondering what had happened.


By the way, chasing us came a message from Beijing: immediately after our departure, Qian’s deputy Tian Zengpei held a press conference in the airport, at which he stated: “a concrete date of the summit will be determined through further consultations. Middle of May is just a proposal made by the Soviet side…” I[gor] Rogachev sits down to write a telegram to Ambassador O[leg] Troianovskii so that he expresses surprise, astonishment, etc.

[…] We were sitting at the Embassy [in Islamabad], working on tomorrow’s affairs […], suddenly there is a phone call from Beijing:

- The Chinese agree to publish the joint statement on Kampuchea, express separately in it their and our points of view on the character of the regime after the withdrawal of forces. They agree to the dates of the visit, to the date of the meeting—May 16. They agree to publish it. Then what happened, after all? But [we] felt lighter at heart: at least there is order here.