Courtesy Reuters

China: Period of Suspense

Seen from a certain distance, China-we speak of the China Mainland, the People's Republic of China-looks to some like the sleeping beauty now waking up to the modern world; to others she may look like a monster preparing to swallow Asia or half of the world. Many see in Mao the symbol of all that is new and fresh, the man who dared to destroy his own establishment and let loose the red guards as rebels.

Seen from close at hand, China looks very different, neither a sleeping beauty nor a monster-and where are the red guards?

It is now fashionable to say that Peking is returning to normality in external relations. There are indeed some signs of greater pragmatism in dealings with other nations. The absolute worship of Mao as the head of world communism is no longer the condition sine qua non for friendly relations with China that it was, or seemed to be, during the cultural revolution. Yet even this principle was never applied in full rigor. Even during the cultural revolution, Rumania, with its relatively independent attitude toward Moscow, was always admitted to the favors of Peking without passing any examination in Mao worship. On close scrutiny, one could see that the fundamental condition was not positive acceptance of Mao as a world leader but something negative-nonacceptance of Moscow. Relations with the European communist countries other than Rumania and Albania were distant before, during and after the cultural revolution, and they are still distant. The only exception was made in favor of Dub?ek's régime in Czechoslovakia, and that not because the Dub?ek régime was taking a more liberal path but because it seemed to be weakening the authority of Moscow.

Geographical nearness puts relations with North Vietnam and North Korea into a different category. During the cultural revolution relations with Pyongyang were definitely bad, and Peking did not hide her disapproval of Hanoi's sitting down with the enemy at the negotiating table in

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