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Digital Archive International History Declassified

June 08, 1987

STENOGRAPHIC TRANSCRIPT OF THE OFFICIAL TALKS BETWEEN ERICH HONECKER AND ZHAO ZIYANG

This document was made possible with support from the MacArthur Foundation

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    Zhao Ziyang and Honecker discuss economic and political reforms in China, bilateral relations between China and East Germany, attempts to reduce nuclear and chemical weapons stockpiles, and China's attitudes toward the Iran-Iraq War, Japan, the United States, and the Soviet Union.
    "Stenographic Transcript of the Official talks 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/122024
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Stenographic Transcript

of the official talks 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, 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, Zhao Ziyang, on Monday, June 8, 1987 in Berlin

(Begin: 1530 Hours)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Erich Honecker:

First, Comrade Zhao Ziyang, I want to heartily welcome you and the members of your delegation again. We are happy to receive such dear guests and comrades in arms. In welcoming you, we are greeting with joy the highest representative of the Chinese Communist Party and the government of your country for an official visit in our German Democratic Republic. I think the upcoming talks will contribute towards further deepening the friendly relations between our parties, states, and peoples. Our meeting is offering a good opportunity to continue here [in the GDR] the exchange of opinions I was privileged to have in your country in October 1986 - in an atmosphere of cordiality, of mutual respect, of understanding, and of trust.

I want to reemphasize it: We share your opinion that our visit to your country has initiated a new stage of relations between us. We are working in particular to raise existing relations between the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and the Chinese Communist Party, between the People's Republic of China and the German Democratic Republic, to a new level. I think that relations between us on this new, higher level will be characterized by an exchange of experiences between our parties and our states.

Under the leadership of its Communist Party the Chinese people does everything to implement socialist modernization. In the name of the German Democratic Republic, and in particular of its communists, I want to heartily congratulate you to the successes you have achieved.

With sympathy and great attention, the citizens of our country are following developments in the People's Republic of China and the major changes that occur. We are fully convinced the Chinese workers, guided by its seasoned Communist Party, will achieve further great successes moving ahead on their socialist path.

During my stay in the People's Republic of China we became familiar in person with witnesses to thousands of years of history, the great contributions to world culture, the glorious struggles of the Chinese people and China's communists for a life in peace and social security, as well as with the building of socialism in your country. I also had a small glimpse into the achievements of the Chinese economy during my visit to the collective exhibit of the People's Republic of China at this year's Leipzig Spring Fair. This collective exhibit has a left a very big impression. Encounters between the people and communists of both our countries, whether in Beijing or here in Berlin, took place in great cordiality and practicality. They contribute towards the deepening of understanding between our peoples, parties, and countries.

Dear Comrade Zhao Ziyang! It is common for us to offer the guest to talk first. If you are in agreement, we can proceed this way and continue with the talks we had in Beijing.

Zhao Ziyang:

I am very grateful to you, Comrade Honecker, for your extremely cordial and friendly words. Before I am addressing the questions, I want to thank you again heartily in the name of my colleagues for the invitation and the cordial reception since our arrival.

The visit of Comrade Honecker in China last October represents a new stage in relations between both our parties and states. I hope, and I am fully convinced, that my visit with you in the GDR will contribute towards further strengthening of mutual trust and understanding.

The German Democratic Republic has begun to build up socialism under extremely difficult conditions. Compared to other socialist states you also have a specific complicated conditions, namely the parallel existence of two German states. Given all these circumstances, you have accomplished excellent achievements and successes. We completely understand the situation you are in. Therefore we highly value your achievements and your successes you have achieved.

For more than 10 years the Socialist Unity Party of Germany under the leadership of Comrade Erich Honecker has developed a line and policy according to your concrete situation. The significant successes you have accomplished testify to the correctness of your line and policy. I may congratulate all comrades from the German Democratic Republic to this, and I want to express my wishes for further additional successes.

During your visit last October we already have exchanged our opinions about important problems. Therefore I want to provide you with a brief overview about the situation in our country as it developed after your visit.

By and large our situation in the past year was good. Also, the situation since beginning of this year until May is very good, both economically and politically. It is known to you, Comrades, that there have been two major events in our country. The first event were the student unrests in some cities, and the second event was the personnel change. However, both events had no impact on the situation of stability and unity. The student unrests as such were not very serious. The problem was easy to solve. Yet the event has directed our attention to the problem that we have for some years weaknesses in ideological work during the implementation of the policy of opening up to the outside. We should take care to both continue the policy of reforms and the opening to the outside and to take into consideration influences from the outside. You can probably say that mistakes have been made in the Central Committee's work. This means, in recent years the guidance by the party got neglected. As a consequence, articles could be published in the mass media where a balanced bourgeois liberalization was advocated. We are calling this the spread of bourgeois liberalization.

Of course, the event and the student unrests went over very quickly after the Central Committee took a clear position. We changed the situation, namely at those points where bourgeois liberalization had spread. We are in the process to guide the newspapers and journals by drawing lessons from the past. This time we do not launch a movement or a campaign. First and foremost we perform information and education work. Except for a few cases, we did not conduct disciplinary actions.

We are of the opinion that the spread of bourgeois liberalization is a consequence of weaknesses in our ideological work. This problem is solvable. It is supposed to be stopped in the tracks.

As far as bourgeois liberalization and ideological work as such is concerned, we have to adjust our work accordingly for the foreseeable time. Education work has to be done for a longer period, especially among the youth.

On the other hand we want to succeed in building up socialism. If people can experience in practice the superiority of socialism, and within the course of development of our society the rise of living standards and the increase of work productivity then the space for liberalization can be slowly more and more reduced. We do not think autarky is a good method to protect citizens from foreign influences. Obviously we also should not allow the spread of bourgeois influences. It is more correct to say that we do not pursue a policy of either or. This means, by being against bourgeois liberalization we continue the policy of opening to the outside. You must not be afraid that people come in touch with foreign influences, even with bad ones. It is important to strengthen the spirit of the people to recognize the truth.

This morning, Comrade Honecker, I told you that the policy of the Third Plenary Session of the Central Committee contains two aspects: on the one hand sticking with the Four Basic Principles and on the other hand the policy of reforms and opening. By strengthening education and information word, however, we do not restrict the policy of reforms.

Recently it became visible that we have achieved good results. Society is stable; the situation of the country is stable. The student unrests and personnel changes have not caused major unrest. The situation of stability and unity in our country has further developed.

More or less, the economic situation is also good. In the last year the gross domestic product grew by more than 9 percent. During the first half of the year growth was not very high, but during the second half it was. Also, the growth rate during the first five months of the current year was 14 percent. We assume that it will be lower during the second half of the year. We assume that industrial growth during the entire year will be 8 percent.

As far as agriculture is concerned, we cannot say anything for sure at this point. Weather in the North was good but in the South it was problematic. Once there was a drought and then there were low temperatures like in your country during the severe winter.

As far as summer cereal is concerned, we expect to reach the level of last year. Back then we had a good harvest of summer cereal. It is has hard to tell at this point how the harvest of the entire year will look like since the fall harvest is not yet known. The fall harvest is an important issue for us.

In 1984 we had reached a peak in agriculture. Back then grain production amounted to 400 million tons. Grain production in 1985 was lower. In the following year, this is in 1986, we had a better harvest again but we did not yet reach the record level. We have planned to reach that level again this year or even surpass it somewhat. The actual outcome will depend to many degrees on the weather.

We have major problems in our economy in the area of finances. In the last year the budget deficit was 7 billion Yen [?, Yuan?, BS]. There are various reasons for this. On the one hand the level of consumption has grown significantly, on the other hand we had big losses in our exports. Normally we do export several million tons of oil per year. This creates a lot of revenue for us. However, since the price of crude oil sank dramatically on the international market, we were forced to export other products in order to keep up with our losses. Though those were products creating not much revenue. Thus we faced a situation of losses in foreign trade. They amount to several billions of Yen [Yuan?]. This year as well we cannot completely avoid such a situation.

In my government speech I gave in March I predicted a budget deficit of 8 billion Yen [Yuan?].

As far as exports are concerned, we have achieved a good result. It is assumed we will significantly surpass the export plan this year. This means, it is possible we will receive more hard currency. However, financial support for exports will have to be larger. As a consequence, we will achieve a good result in our foreign trade balance. Within the country, though, we will have to further live with a budget deficit.

In order to reduce the deficit, we have launched this year a campaign for a growth of production, thriftiness, increase of revenue, and a reduction of spending because this year we will still have a finances deficit. Then the indices of prices will be raised. Price increases will amount to 6 percent.

To make it short: The economic situation in our country is more or less okay, but we also have problems. In the current year we will continue with the reform of economic mechanisms. Reform of the pricing system will be postponed. It will be implemented later than we had initially planned.

Regarding the reform of enterprises, there will be acceleration. We are currently in the process to link the campaign for a growth of production, thriftiness, increase of revenue, and a reduction of spending with the reform of enterprises.

Something like that is the new situation after your visit last year. Now I would like to hear your opinion and then address the bilateral relations.

Erich Honecker:

I want first and foremost thank you very much for your statements. They reflect the changes that occurred after out visit to the People's Republic of China. We are following all that with heightened interest. The dynamic development of socialism in China has great relevance and impact not only for you but also for developments in the world.

[] [remarks on domestic political and economic successes of GDR]

If you have no questions, I suggest we move perhaps over to international issues.

Zhao Ziyang:

I would like to ask that you state your opinions first.

Erich Honecker:

As you wish. We are obviously forced to be concerned constantly with international issues.

[][remarks on GDR foreign policy and disarmament]

Zhao Ziyang:

Many thanks, Comrade Honecker, for your extensive information about the meeting of the Warsaw Treaty [Pact] and the foreign policy of the German Democratic Republic.

Concerning the foreign policy of the People's Republic of China and also positions on certain issues, we have informed you extensively during your visit to China. So I briefly want to refer only to the following points:

Overall we are viewing the international situation as very tense, but we think that forces in favor of strengthening world peace have become stronger. Those forces have grown faster than those in favor of war. We hope to achieve long-term a peaceful international situation if all peace-loving states and peoples are aiming at this.

The People's Republic of China is pursuing a foreign policy of peace with the basic objective to secure the peace of the world. China is a large country in terms of territory. We think it is most useful to world peace if we pursue an independent course of peace.

We welcome and support efforts by the Soviet Union and the United States to conduct a dialogue leading to negotiations over disarmament. We very much hope they will reach agreements through negotiations with regard to substantial reductions of nuclear as well as conventional arms. This will be beneficial to world peace.

As far as the reduction of intermediate nuclear missiles is concerned, we are in favor of the principle of reciprocity in Europe as well as in Asia, this is synchronously in Asia and in Europe. China is interested in security in Europe. China is viewing both the Eastern European and Western European countries as states who want peace. We welcome it very much that the states in both Eastern and Western Europe are improving their relations and developing their cooperation. The People's Republic of China is willing to establish relations with both the Eastern European states and the Western European countries. When we establish relations with Western European states, we will do nothing that would be detrimental to the interests of the Eastern European states.

As far as the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in Central Europe is concerned: We support such an initiative in principle. In order to achieve this objective, the states concerned have to negotiate and reach an agreement. The two superpowers, this is the Soviet Union and the United States, should respect such agreements and make respective commitments.

With regard to the ban of chemical weapons, we advocate for a comprehensive ban and the complete destruction of chemical weapons. From our perspective it would be better, in light of the character of chemical weapons, to reach a global agreement on the prohibition of chemical weapons.

Concerning the war between Iraq and Iran, we stick to our neutrality. We are active to decrease tensions between both states and to mediate.

We are also following the situation in the strait of the Persian Gulf. We are clearly against all steps that jeopardize the safety of navigation. We seriously hope the two states Iraq and Iran will end this tragic war as soon as possible. We are supporting all efforts to end this war. The position of the People's Republic of China regarding this problem is known to all members of the United Nations. Recently we discussed this problem with U.N. Secretary General Perez de Cuellar during his visit to China.

We welcome the improvement in relations between both German states and the development of cooperation between them. This in the interest of peoples in both states and beneficial to peace in Europe and in the world.

Regarding relations between China and the Soviet Union: There has been progress on practical issues. In February this year negotiations about borders were resumed, and a beginning was made. In the second half of the year, the second round of border negotiations will be held. It can be assumed they will lead to progress.

Concerning the question of normalization between both countries there is unfortunately no progress. You know the reason, Comrade Honecker, and I did not want to elaborate further.

With regard to relations between China and the United States: We have also achieved progress in certain concrete areas. We want to develop normal bilateral relations with the United States based of the principles of peaceful coexistence. Of course, it cannot be denied that there also exist problems in China's relations with the United States. In recent years there always have been conflicts and disputed about the Taiwan problem.

Relations between China and Japan are by and large positive. Great progress has been achieved. However, there are also problems in relations between China and Japan, in particular the following two: first, the Japanese attitude pertaining to the war of aggression against China, and second the Taiwan problem again. The Kokario[1] problem has to be viewed in this context as well.

There is a tendency in Japan that deserves our attention. There are really some people in Japan who strive for militarism. In the context of strengthening economic power, there exist efforts to turn Japan not only into an economically developed but also into a militarily strong country. Military spending has exceeded set limits by several percent. Of course we do notice that militarism is rejected by the Japanese people. However, we have to be vigilant nonetheless. - So much on international issues.

Erich Honecker:

I am grateful for these informations and the problems you mentioned. In essence they also reflect our views concerning the contribution to securing the peace.

We very much welcome that there is progress in bilateral relations between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. We hope those relations will continue to improve. These are very important questions. We have talked about them.

As far as relations with Japan are concerned, you do know that recently Prime Minister Nakasone has paid us a visit. Of course, we never forget even for a second that the assessment you provided us with is absolutely correct. We have agreed with Japan about issues of the policy of peaceful coexistence. It cannot be denied that there are people who tend towards militarism in context of the overall international situation.

I want to thank you for your statements. There is not much time left and during the course of your stay you will also meet our Minister President Willi Stoph. I only want to reemphasize our opinion that there exist the opportunity, based on our signed agreements and proposals, to expand economic relations further and to raise collaboration to a higher level in the area of science and technology. Many people you know are present, Comrade Beil is here, Comrade Wyschofsky is here. Indeed, our capacities and potentials are so string that trade should be expanded not only for economic but also for political reasons. If you meet with Comrade Stoph, I want to ask the other comrades to also talk about this issue. I want to express, also in the name of our delegation, that we are absolutely in favor of an expansion of trade.

Zhao Ziyang:

Like the German Democratic Republic, the People's Republic of China values very highly the friendly relationship of cooperation. I also want to emphasize here the contributions made by Comrade Honecker toward the development of friendly relations, and I also want to highlight the farsightedness of Comrade Honecker.

We are willing to develop long-term, stable, friendly relations with the German Democratic Republic. Our political relationship is grounded in mutual respect, economic relations are based on mutual benefit. We want to continue to increase and extend mutual understanding as well as to deepen mutual trust.

In light of experiences and lessons from the recent past, we will completely understand the domestic and foreign policy of the German Democratic Republic and other Eastern European socialist states. In recent years we followed this principle. We are also doing it now and hope to do it even better in the future. Here I want to exercise self-criticism. In the past we have made mistakes in this area. Of course we do not have to settle accounts any more. This is already an issue of the past. The reason behind this was that we did not sufficiently understand the situation of the GDR and other Eastern European socialist states. Indeed, the situation is different with every country. It is very important to correctly understand the different situations that exist. You must not view another country through a rigid lens, with a rigid model. To make it short: We did not understand you sufficiently. However, since a few years understanding has deepened. I very much hope this understanding will further deepen in the future. This is an important objectives of my foreign visits, this time to five Eastern European socialist states.

Regarding economic relations, I will have the chance to talk with Comrade Stoph in detail. One thing though I want to say here: I am very pleased with the development of our relations. Of course I also think there are more opportunities for these relations. In addition to traditional trade of goods, we also should look for new ways in order reach new forms of collaboration. Our door is open.

All forms of collaboration China has applied and does apply in foreign relations can also be applied to our relations with the GDR. Forms that have not been in effect between China and foreign countries we can apply as well. It is declared policy of our country to further expand economic relations with the German Democratic Republic and to further develop scientific and technological cooperation.

We have the concept to increase the share of our economic relations with Eastern European socialist states, the GDR among them. The share of these states in our overall foreign economic relations is still to small. This situation has to change.

Erich Honecker:

I thank you. I completely agree with you and welcome your remarks. We are eager as well to develop relations with the People's Republic of China as broad as possible.

In continuation of our talks in October of last year and the current exchange of opinions, we should review the situation and apply all form of scientific-technological and economic collaboration. We expect still bigger initiatives from our cabinet members in order to achieve even more with you in the different negotiations that are taking place. I did not want to go into major detail here.

I thank you very cordially; we are completely in agreement. In light of lateness in time, we suggest to wrap up talks for today. We see each other tonight at the banquet, and now we are signing agreements.

[End of official talks: 1755 hours].

[1] A dormitory for Chinese students in Kyoto, Japan, built in 1931, became after 1949 a subject of dispute between Taiwan and the PRC over ownership rights. A Japanese court ruled in favor of the PRC in 1977 but a higher court awarded the dormitory to Taiwan in 1987. See for instance: http://www.csmonitor.com/1987/0507/olash.html

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