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Digital Archive International History Declassified

October 18, 1988

NOTE ABOUT A MEETING BETWEEN ERICH HONECKER AND QIAO SHI

This document was made possible with support from the MacArthur Foundation

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    Erich Honecker and Qiao Shi discuss economic and political reform in China, attempts to foster Sino-Soviet rapprochement, and East German and Chinese attitudes toward chemical and nuclear weapons.
    "Note about a Meeting between Erich Honecker and Qiao Shi," October 18, 1988, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, SAPMO-BA, DY 30, 2437. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/122029
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about a meeting 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 Member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo and the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and Secretary of the Discipline Control Commission of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Comrade Qiao Shi, on October 18, 1988 in the House of the Central Committee [in Berlin]

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Comrade Erich Honecker cordially welcomed Comrade Qiao Shi in the name of the members of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the SED and in his own name. He expressed his pleasure to continue with today's meeting the dialogue with leading representatives of the People's Republic of China begun 1986 in Beijing and moving on 1987 in Berlin. He asked Comrade Qiao Shi first to begin with his remarks.

Comrade Qiao Shi conveyed cordial greetings from Comrades Zhao Ziyang, Deng Xiaoping, Li Xiannian, Yang Shangkun, and Li Peng. They all remember their talks with Erich Honecker very well. In the meantime, Comrade Zhao Ziyang was elected at the XIII Party Congress in October 1987 as General Secretary of the Central Committee and now has even more work to do. He is in good health though. The other comrades are doing fine as well. With his 84 years, Comrade Deng Xiaoping is already of older age and therefore resigned from important positions. Still, the party leadership still pays maximum attention to his opinions on the most important matters of party and state. He is feeling good health-wise.

[Qiao Shi] thanked Comrade Honecker and the Politburo of the Central Committee of the SED for the invitation to visit the GDR and for the great care the SED leadership took with the delegation during its stay in the GDR. From the first minute of its visit, the delegation felt extremely well in the GDR and is very pleased with the results of the visit. The talks with Comrades Axen, Dohlus, Krenz and in the Magdeburg District with Comrade Eberlein were full of content and very informative. The delegation was very impressed by what it saw and heard.

Relations between both parties and countries have developed very well in recent years. Certainly, relations had been traditionally fine already during earlier years. However, with the official friendship visit to China by Comrade Erich Honecker in 1986 a new stage of collaboration was launched. With this visit, a new chapter of the friendly relations between both parties and countries have begun. It has left deep impressions in China. In the last year Comrade Zhao Ziyang paid an official visit to the GDR. He was very well received in the GDR and had friendly and substantial talks with Comrade Honecker and other comrades of the Politburo. He returned to China with excellent memories and talked about them frequently to the party leadership.

Qiao Shi explained his visit to the GDR is actually very short. Yet Comrade Axen had arranged for him a very well thought out, comprehensive program which had been very diligently prepared. There were many meetings where very substantial and deep conversations could be held. There are many things in the GDR China cal learn from. His visit to the GDR will have a positive impact on further development of relations.

Then Comrade Qiao Shi talked about the domestic situation in the People's Republic of China. At the XIII Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party the fundamental party line regarding the early stage of socialism in China was discussed and decided. The theory about the early stage had been developed already during earlier discussions about the CCP's historic experiences. The XIII Party Congress deepened and comprehensively outlined it. It is based on the concrete situation in China. Before the foundation of the People's Republic in 1949, China was still a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country. To establish a socialist economy on such a foundation requires a long-term historical time frame. Experiences of the CCP that the biggest mistakes in the policy of party were made when rushed solutions were sought. In past years the real situation was insufficiently considered, when one wanted to move ahead faster. Certainly it is not a bad thing that communists want to achieve their goals quickly. You have to avoid, however, to become overeager since this way you will miss the actual goal. These experiences were lying behind the decisions of the XIII Party Congress.

The Party Congress also dealt with the issue of the over-aging of leadership in organs of party and state. Initially Comrades Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun, and Li Xiannian had agreed with each other to resign at the Party Congress collectively from their positions. However, many comrades did not agree with this. As a result, the three decided to resign only by half. All three left the Standing Committee of the Politburo and each of them took over only one central position: Comrade Deng Xiaoping the chairmanship of the Central Committee's Military Commission, Comrade Chen Yun the chairmanship of the Advisory Commission, and Comrade Li Xiannian the chairmanship of the Political Consultative Conference of the Chinese People. Younger comrades were elected to the Standing Committee of the Politburo. In April 1988 the 1st Session of the VII National People's Congress adopted the resulting changes on the state level. In accordance with Comrade Deng Xiaoping one can define the XIII Party Congress as a party gathering that liberated thinking as well as the productive forces.

Subsequently the party focused on increased implementation of the reform of political and economic structures. At the working meeting of the Central Committee and the 3rd Plenum of the Central Committee in September 1988 the targets for continuation of political and economic reforms for the next five years were passed. The plenary meeting stated that for a successful course of reforms in 1989 and 1990 regulations are necessary to slow the overheated economic development speed, to lower the scope of investments and to reduce the rate of inflation which will amount to about 15 percent in 1988. Despite ongoing efforts, the pace of growth in the industry is still too high also in 1988. Investments are still too large. In 1989, investments are supposed to be reduced by 20 percent and the pace of economic growth slowed down to 10 percent. Given the current conditions of still ongoing economic growth, those regulations are to be implemented comparatively easy. Furthermore, measures are also needed to limit the purchasing power of society's consumers. More attention is to be devoted to better organizational structures in the sphere of circulation.

Many problems in development of the country are related to the fact that the development of the judicial system has not kept pace with the speed of the reforms.

All those measures required the strengthening of leadership by the party, the solidification of democratic centralism as well as better organization and tighter discipline. All in all, the CCP leadership is assessing that overall the country is in a good situation.

The reason behind certain new developments in foreign policy of the People's Republic of China are Chinese-Soviet relations. [Qiao Shi] has already informed Comrade Axen about this in detail. Three years ago Comrade Deng Xiaoping had asked Comrade Ceausescu during a visit to the People's Republic of China to convey an oral message to Comrade Gorbachev. It contained the information that a summit between the USSR and the People's Republic of China can be held very soon if the Soviet Union will resolve three issues. Those three issues were the withdrawal of about 1 million Soviet forces  deployed during the Brezhnev Era at the Soviet-Chinese border plus the withdrawal of troops from Mongolia, the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, and the Kampuchea question. The hope was expressed the Soviet Union will be able to influence Vietnam to withdraw its forces from Kampuchea. For different reasons, maybe also due to domestic problems in the Soviet Union, there had been no response to these questions for some time. The current situation, however, is quite good. There are more contacts and exchanges with the USSR, especially in the areas of trade and culture. Negotiations about the border issue are taking place at the level of deputy foreign ministers. Though they have not been concluded, one can say there are quite good atmospherics. Some time ago Comrade Gorbachev voiced the opinion one could demarcate river borders according to the thalweg principle. This way he basically adopted previous Chinese positions. So currently there are good talks, but as of yet no final conclusions. In August 1988 deputy foreign ministers from China and the Soviet Union met for the first time to discuss the Kampuchea question. At this meeting as well, atmospherics were good and allowed for a broad exchange of opinions. Despite still existing differences, the impression was gained that on the Soviet side as well there is a desire to solve this problem. In September the Foreign Ministers of PR China and the USSR sat down for a meeting at the occasion of the U.N. General Assembly. There as well the Kampuchea issue was discussed. An agreement was reached that the Foreign Minister of the PR China will visit the Soviet Union still in 1988. Maybe soon afterwards there will be a visit of the Soviet Foreign Minister to China. If those visits will be positive, the likelihood os growing to hold a summit between China and the Soviet Union.

As with all other issues, the Chinese leadership is approaching also Soviet-Chinese relations based on the [overall] principle of looking ahead. A couple of questions and problems in those relations have a historic backgrounds. Certainly one can exchange different opinions about this. Most important it is, however, to deal well with the issues of the future.

If one will act according to these principles, relations between China and the Soviet Union can enter the path of a normalization. China has the strong desire that everything will move toward this direction.

Normalization of Chinese-Soviet relations though will not mean a return to the 1950s. China has made sufficient experiences with this. If you analyze the development of recent decades, you can conclude that the five principles of peaceful coexistence between the states have stood the test of time. After a resolution of problems that had separated both sides, it will be easily possible to develop relations on the basis of the five principles of peaceful coexistence.

Obviously China is willing to develop and cultivate friendly relations with all socialist countries. After all, these are all socialist countries led by communist parties. China and them have many things in common. However, bilateral relations must be based on the five principles of peaceful coexistence.

In the long run, China will build socialism based on its own situation. It will pursue the principles of independence, equality, and non-alignment. Deng Xiaoping has repeatedly explained those principles to foreign guests.

Comrade Qiao Shi thanked Comrade Honecker for the opportunity to report in such detail about the policy of the Communist Party of China.

Comrade Honecker thanked very cordially for the information about the domestic and foreign policy of the PR China. The visit by the delegation chaired by Comrade Qiao Shi has demonstrated again that there exists a fundamental agreement about a lot of issues.

[…] [Honecker on domestic policy of the GDR in detail]

Concerning foreign policy issues, Comrade Honecker declared SED and CCP are in complete agreement that most important is the preservation of world peace. Also, there exists agreement between the SED and the Communist Party of China about the principles of collaboration between the communist parties. China is playing a very active role in the struggle for world peace. Overall, the GDR is advocating the application of the principles of peaceful coexistence. It is a participant in the process of disarmament and has made its contribution to the INF Treaty. The GDR is hoping very much there will be a halving of strategic offensive weapons as a consequence of an agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States. The GDR is advocating a world free of chemical weapons. The GDR is for banning all nuclear testing, against the militarization of space, and for nuclear-free zones.

Comrade Honecker again expressed the thanks of the SED for China's sending of a representative delegation to the International Meeting for nuclear-free zones. Thus the People's Republic of China has very actively supported this meeting. Comrade Honecker informed that the Politburo had just received a report from Comrade Axen about current results of this meeting. The report had emphasized that this meeting inspired new initiatives across the entire world.

Comrade Honecker asked Comrade Qiao Shi in the name of the Politburo and in his own name to send cordial greetings to the leading [Chinese] comrades of the party and state. The SED is following developments in the PR China with great interest. Comrade [PRC] Ambassador [to the GDR] can confirm that recently many delegations from the PRC visited the GDR. Also, more than few delegations from the GDR traveled to China. After all, China is larger than the GDR. Comrade Honecker wished the Chinese communist much further success in mastering the tasks assigned by the XIII Party Congress and the 3rd Plenum.

Comrade Qiao Shi thanked Comrade Honecker for the extensive information about the work of the SED. Though the visit had not been very long, the delegation gained deep insight into the implementation of the policy of the main task of unity of economic and social policy, as launched by the VIII [SED] Party Congress. The delegation was very impressed by the development of science and technology, and especially of high technology, all which is guided by the SED in a very tight manner. This became evident during all the meetings of the visit. In the area of high technology, the GDR has already good foundations and achieved first results. The CCP is also delighted about the successes in agriculture. All that has been achieved under especially complicated ideological conditions.

Comrade Honecker has just talked about the preservation of peace and about disarmament. On those questions [Chinese and GDR] positions are identical. This became also very much evident in the meeting with Comrade Axen. The CCP is very pleased with the development of relations between both parties, states, and peoples in recent years.

If the visit by the CCP delegation was so successful, then only because Comrade Honecker and the comrades from the Politburo have undertaken strenuous efforts to organize a good visit for the delegation. Qiao Shi promised to forward with pleasure the cordial greetings of Comrade Honecker and the Politburo of the Central Committee of the SED to the leading comrades of party and state in the PR China.

Though Comrade Honecker had visited China already in 1986, it would be good and a great joy for the CCP if Comrade Honecker will visit the PR China again at a time of his convenience.

Comrade Honecker thanked for the invitation and stated he will delighted to follow it. There are many opportunities for further development and deepening of relations, especially in the economic, and in particular in the scientific-technological field. Both parties should actively strive for the furthering of this collaboration. He again thanked Comrade Qiao Shi for the friendly meeting.

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