REFORMERS FIND COMMON GROUND

The current procession of East European visitors to China and China's better relations with the Soviet Union indicate the importance of a new and common interest in economic reforms, diplomats say.

Profound ideological differences that underlay the Sino-Soviet split decades ago grew out of criticisms of Stalin by his successor, Nikita S. Khrushchev. They appear to be diminishing.During the recent round of normalization talks, the Soviet deputy foreign minister, Igor Rogachev, reportedly made enthusiastic comments about the achievements of the reforms.

This would be in sharp contrast to disparaging remarks made by his predecessor, Ivan Arkhipov, vice premier.

"It's brought them closer together. There's a new sense of proximity that

hasn't existed since the 1950s," one East European source said.

He was careful to stress, however, that there can be no return to the close cooperation of those days.

Calls for reform from the Kremlin may also be strengthening the hand of China's reformers against conservative figures keen to return to the rigid state planning imported from the Soviet Union in the 1950s.

While relations between Peking and Moscow are far from normal, East European leaders have been tripping over themselves to visit China since the Soviets gave the go-ahead.

They find plenty of common problems to discuss.

China has been studying and drawing lessons from the experiences of East European economic reforms, which closely parallel China's present efforts.

Experts here pay particular attention to the mistakes made by Yugoslavia when it eased foreign exchange controls in the early 1970s and by Poland in importing large amounts of Western technology on borrowed money.

Although China has tightened control over foreign exchange and insists that joint ventures balance foreign exchange each year, it's also running up foreign debt.

Export earnings targets have been dashed by unsuccessful offshore oil exploration and lower international oil prices.

Discontent provoked in Chinese cities after the government allowed prices of vegetables and meat to rise last year also has parallels with food riots in Poland in 1970 and 1979.

While it is hard to assess the depth of public discontent, the government hesitated for a year before raising other prices.

The urban reforms launched in the autumn of 1984 - aimed at a degree of decentralization and reduction in party interference - were tried in Hungary nearly 20 years ago.

The Chinese government has had limited success so far, which East European analysts attribute to the fact that it started from a far more Stalinist model than ever existed in Hungary, Czechoslovakia or Poland.

Unlike in Eastern Europe, Stalin is still a respected figure in China. His portrait is still dusted off and hung in Tiananmen Square during national day celebrations on Oct. 1.

"The Chinese now realize that economic reforms must be accompanied by parallel reforms of the political system," one East European economic specialist said.

"They talk very big about reforms, but they haven't achieved very much yet. They have yet to redefine the status of an enterprise vs. the state," he said.

Reforming a huge and still largely agrarian economy presents problems of a different nature from those in much smaller and more industrialized Eastern Europe.

Yet on the anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, the official Xinhua news agency took pains to praise the "new economic mechanism" Hungary introduced in 1968.

"Subsequent successes have proven the merit of the policy, although the course was not without difficulty," it said.

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