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Digital Archive International History Declassified

June 08, 1987

STENOGRAPHIC TRANSCRIPT OF THE TALK BETWEEN ERICH HONECKER AND ZHAO ZIYANG

This document was made possible with support from the MacArthur Foundation

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    Zhao Ziyang and Erich Honecker discuss the current political leadership in China, particularly the role of Hu Yaobang, and the Kampuchean crisis.
    "Stenographic Transcript of the Talk between Erich Honecker and Zhao Ziyang," June 08, 1987, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, SAPMO-BA, DY 30, 2437. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/122023
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Stenographic Transcript

of the talk between the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and Chairman of the State Council of the German Democratic Republic, Comrade Erich Honecker, with the Acting General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, Comrade Zhao Ziyang, on June 8, 1987 in the House of the Central Committee [in Berlin]

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Comrade Erich Honecker:

I want to express my extraordinary joy that you, dear Comrade Zhao Ziyang, have accepted the invitation by our Central Committee, State Council, and Council of Ministers of the GDR to visit the GDR.

I remember very fondly my visit to your great country in October of last year. I want to emphasize that we are sharing your opinion that this visit has initiated a new stage in the development of relations between our parties, states, and peoples. We are sharing this assessment with you. This is also the opinion of our party, our state, and our people.

I again want to welcome you from the bottom of my heart.

Comrade Zhao Ziyang:

I again want to thank you, Comrade Honecker, cordially for the invitation and the warm welcome by your party, by the leadership of your party, and by your people. In October of the previous year you, Comrade Honecker, have visited the People's Republic of China. This visit was of especially great historic importance since it was the first visit by the highest representatives of a party and state leadership from the socialist countries of Eastern Europe to the People's Republic of China for more than 20 years. You have noted with absolute correctness that your visit has opened a new chapter in our relations.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to continue -after seven months have passed- our fruitful talks from Beijing now here in Berlin.

Many thanks for everything you have done for my visit.

Comrade Erich Honecker:

Many thanks for your remarks. It is good that we can now continue our conversations from Beijing. Some months have passed, and many events occurred in the meantime. Thus we welcome again the opportunity for an exchange of opinions. In the afternoon of today at 1530 hours we will begin with our official talks in the State Council of the GDR. Right now we have the opportunity, here in the House of the Central Committee, to discuss some issues in a smaller setting that cannot be discussed in a larger setting.

Comrade Zhao Ziyang:

I agree with this. I also had the desire for such a conversation since in a smaller setting one can talk about certain issues in more depth and detail.

I want to inform about a question which is also of great interest to you. It is about the changes in personnel in our party leadership. At the beginning of the year, Comrade Hu Yaobang requested to be released from his position as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. This request was accepted at an extended meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee.

Comrade Hu Yaobang is a good comrade. For years he has performed a lot of useful work for our party. Especially after the crackdown on the Gang of Four, he made a valuable contribution to implement the decisions of the Central Committee in his positions as head of the Department for Organization and Cadre Affairs of the Central Committee and as Head of the Chancellery of the Central Committee. This pertains especially to the rehabilitation of many cadres of the party persecuted during the Cultural Revolution. We will all never forget his major contribution to the policy of our party. Also, right after he assumed the position of the General Secretary of the Central Committee, Comrade Hu Yaobang performed a lot of useful work. However, later over the course of time a whole string of weaknesses became evident. They increased especially over the last two years, during that time they became very clear.

Comrade Hu Yaobang was very active in implementing the policy of reforms and opening of the country to the outside. He has done a lot for this. In this regard, there was agreement among the members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo and the members of the Politburo of the Central Committee. However, he was neither steadfast nor did he have a clear position concerning adherence to the Four Basic Principles, namely the socialist path of development, the leadership of the Communist Party, the democratic dictatorship of the people and Marxism-Leninism/Mao Zedong Thought, as well as the struggle against bourgeois liberalization. Within the framework of the policy of reforms and the opening to the outside, some few intellectuals are actively engaged to spread bourgeois liberalism. Comrade Hu Yaobang had been rather lenient towards those people. It went so far that those could interpret his attitude as a tolerance of their activities.

You, Comrade Honecker, are aware that the guideline for the build-up of socialism with Chinese characteristics, as passed by the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee, has two aspects: first, to adhere the Four Basic Principles; which is a basic stipulation enshrined in the constitution of our country. Second, the policy of reforms and the opening to the outside. Both aspects go together, they are not mutually exclusive but mutually dependent. If you only consider one of those aspects, it would have detrimental consequences. Comrade Hu Yaobang's mistake was to focus only on one aspect, namely the policy of reforms and the opening to the outside. In the party leadership we called attention to this mistake already two years ago. The Politburo also made according decisions, for instance passing the resolution to increase ideological work and making another decision to fight spiritual pollution. Those measures were supposed to swiftly implement the policy of reforms and the opening to the outside. Back then Comrade Hu Yaobang had supported all those decisions. In fact, though, he acted rather indifferently towards them. Many people considered Comrade Hu Yaobang as the patron for the spread of bourgeois liberalism and placed high hopes on him in this regard. At several meetings of the Politburo and the Secretariat of the Central Committee Comrade Hu Yaobang was criticized in this respect. Several times Comrade Deng Xiaoping summoned Comrade Hu Yaobang to talk with him about this. However, Comrade Hu Yaobang did not take all this seriously enough. Therefore the party leadership reached the conclusion not to reelect Comrade Hu Yaobang as General Secretary of the Central Committee at the XIII Party Congress. Comrade Hu Yaobang agreed with this decision as well. There was the plan to elect him at the XIII Party Congress as Chairman of the Central Advisory Commission. Actually, Comrade Hu Yaobang had already declared during the XII Party Congress to assume the position of General Secretary just for one term. Therefore it was the original idea of the party leadership to institute the change at the XIII Party Congress. We considered the proposed solution as appropriate and very logical.

However, at the end of 1986 the familiar student unrests occurred. There had been many different reasons for them. The most basic of those reasons was that for two years the movement of bourgeois liberalism spread in our country. A lot of speeches were made and many articles were published in party organs which spread the spirit of bourgeois liberalism. This was also the case at the universities. At several universities and colleges, speeches were held with demands for a two-party system, a complete Westernization of society. Even a temporary capitalist development in China was advocated. Essentially the student unrests were not a very serious matter. It was also easy to settle them. However, they reflected the consequences of the mistaken policy of Hu Yaobang. In this situation the party leadership felt the need to agree on a campaign against bourgeois liberalization. Its objective consists in  increasing educational work towards maintaining the Four Basic Principles. Given those circumstances, Comrade Hu Yaobang no longer viewed himself as able to lead this campaign as General Secretary of the Central Committee. Obviously this was about the struggle against the consequences of his mistaken policy. Therefore he submitted to the members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo the request to resign from his position. At the expanded meeting of the Politburo this issue was discussed. One came to the conclusion a delay on this issue would cause damage to the work of the party. Thus the meeting accepted Comrade Hu Yaobang's request, but decided at the same time that he will remain a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo.

This change in personnel will have no impact on the further pursuit of our party's fundamental line. To the contrary. Now we can implement the line of the Third Plenum more broadly, comprehensively, and correctly. Neither our domestic nor our foreign policy will undergo a change, much less so our policy concerning the development of relations with the Eastern European socialist countries, among them especially the GDR. The mistakes of Comrade Hu Yaobang do not affect this part of our policy.

Comrade Honecker:

I thank you very much for this information about the reason behind the personnel change. We hold of course the position that such changes are the matter of each party. We support the principles of equality and non-interference in internal matters of other parties. Each party itself is responsible to its people. Though through your comprehensive information we now better understand the reasons behind the changes. There is no doubt whatsoever that we show understanding for your policy and your personnel changes you made after our visit to your country, since all this is about fundamental questions. Leadership of socialist development by the party, both by the Communist Party of China and the SED, requires special attention to the struggle against liberalization. You emphasized correctly that the Four Basic Principles and the reforms and opening to the outside need to be seen as a whole. Obviously we are also very much interested in a solid orientation of the People's Republic towards the socialist path. We conduct a very hard struggle to anchor socialism and its ideology ever more solid in the mindset of our people. This is why I want to thank you very much for your official remarks. In our talkd in the People's Republic of China, Comrade Hu Yaobang played an important role as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the People's Republic of China. It has shown, however, the the CCP leadership takes measures at the appropriate time in order to safeguard China's socialist path. It was appropriate to talk about these questions in this setting. In the name of the comrades of the Politburo of the Central Committee of our party I want to thank you very much for this.

I am saying this based on the understanding that our relations are solid and unshakeable. You have called our visit to the People's Republic of China historic. We fully share your assessment.

I think that we should discuss all other questions in our official talks today afternoon, although our current meeting has of course also official character. This meeting the House of the Central Committee of the party underlines that here the focus lies on the party.

[] [remarks on GDR domestic policy and achievements]

In this setting I also want to briefly address another question. When we stayed in the People's Republic of China, we had an extensive conversation in Nanjing with Comrade Hu Yaobang. He informed about your position on the Kampuchea issue and asked us to convey your opinion also to the Soviet comrades and Comrade Gorbachev. I have done so. Comrade Gorbachev has told me it now looks like that there is a formula developing to resolve the Kampuchea issue; namely by way of a policy of national reconciliation and the formation of a coalition government including Sihanouk but without Pol Pot. They assume to reach this way a solution corresponding to the actual situation, and which is achievable in combination with contacts between Vietnam and the People's Republic of China and the countries of ASEAN.

Comrade Zhao Ziyang:

Our position is also known to you. So I don't want to go into details. Just one sentence here. The precondition for a resolution of the Kampuchea issue is a complete withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from Cambodia. As long as Kampuchea is occupied by foreign troops, one cannot talk about chances for a political settlement. We are in favor of such a solution after the withdrawal of the Vietnamese forces. It looks like the Cambodian people will support only a coalition government headed by Prince Sihanouk. Who can participate in this coalition government and who cannot, will be determined by the Cambodian people. As far as I know, Pol Pot has already been moved into retirement.

Comrade Erich Honecker:

I thank you for the meeting. We have talked about questions that contribute to mutual understanding.

I think our exchange of opinions will become very successful. Yet we will have to assess this only after our talks have ended. The program of your visit contains many opportunities for an exchange of opinions and to become familiar with the GDR.

Comrade Zhao Ziyang:

This visit will offer to me good opportunities to learn from you.

Comrade Erich Honecker:

It is a mutual learning. We also have learned a lot from you. We are having good relations with long traditions. This will also be expressed very well through naming a Berlin middle school after Marshal Zhu De.

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