I recently visited the Chinese industrial exhibition in Moscow, the first trade fair China has held in the U.S.S.R. in over 30 years.
On display in Moscow's sprawling Sokolniki Park were Chinese-made personal computers, outboard motors, a rocket for space communications, medical instruments, washing machines, microwave ovens, tractors and models of drilling platforms and ocean-going ships.Just as impressive, for me, were the traditional exports such as the coveted Tientsin carpets, porcelain and ornate carvings in jade and cork. These seemed to be the main drawing card for 300,000 Soviet citizens who flocked to the two-week China trade fair.
Of course I did not visit the earlier China trade exhibition in Moscow three decades ago. But I was at the first postwar Chinese industrial fair in Japan held about 22 years ago. This was before the cultural revolution," which, in the minds of some, severely retarded Chinese industrial progress. I recall being impressed then with Chinese-made dental equipment, ivory carvings and various electric motors, and the fact that the Chinese displayed their own domestically produced automobiles. At that time, I wrote about China's industrial leap forward."
Ye Jianchun, the director of the Chinese trade fair in Moscow, told reporters that the displays of carpets, footwear, clothes, quilts and the like were traditional exports" of China. But he urged his visitors to see something new." By this he meant the goods produced by the latest Chinese technology, that China previously did not sell for export for the simple reason that China did not make them.
I think the significance of the just-ended Chinese trade fair in Moscow is not so much that it is the first in many years but that it comes at a time of rapidly improving Sino-Soviet ties in many fields.
Bilateral trade figures vividly point to this improvement. Sino-Soviet trade rose last year by 64 percent over the previous year to approximately US$2.2 billion. It is expected to rise again this year. Both sides say that by 1990 this trade will be double the 1985 figure. Last year, both countries signed a long-term trade pact extending to 1990. The U.S.S.R. is also scheduled to hold a major industrial exhibition in the Chinese capital in
Last month, the Soviet foreign trade minister, Boris Aristov, met a 70- strong Chinese trade delegation in Moscow and discussed ways to improve economic ties between the world's two biggest communist states.
Some Soviet reports say the new Sino-Soviet accords bring back memories of the good relations existing in the 1950s when the Soviets built an estimated 256 major industrial projects in China.
When a Soviet journalist asked the director of the Chinese exhibition in Moscow about the factories that the U.S.S.R. built in China in the 1950s, Mr. Ye said tactfully that everything is normal. But he added that because of time, we have changed the equipment. Some western sources say that a sign that Sino-Soviet relations have improved is the report released earlier this year that China cut the size of its army by one million men. The sources note that the two neighboring countries have a common border stretching for more than 4,000 miles.
These sources say that China's trade with the Soviet Union is increasing faster than with any other nation. The U.S.S.R. exports to China such items as aircraft technology, autos, trucks, industrial and power engineering equipment, rolled steel, pipes, cement, timber, fertilizer and other industrial products. China's exports to the U.S.S.R. include farm produce, textiles and mining industry products.
Perhaps a conclusive proof of the warming up of Sino-Soviet relations was the presence of Raisa Gorbachev, wife of the Soviet leader, at a recent fashion show held at the Chinese embassy in Moscow. Also enjoying the show were the wives of the Soviet prime minister and foreign minister. One western source said their presence at the show really raised diplomatic eyebrows.
But the Soviets appear sober enough to recognize that many thorny problems in Sino-Soviet relations remain as hangovers from the past. As one local report put it: Thick ice takes time to melt.