The Chinese are not making it easy for Ronald Reagan to get off the hook regarding his maladroit statements on Taiwan. The Republican presidential candidate's running mate, George Bush, arrived in Peking Aug. 20, greeting old friends effusively and likening his three-day visit to a "pleasant homecoming." (Mr. Bush headed the US diplomatic mission here from 1974 to 1975.)
But as the official newspaper People's Daily tartly reminded Messrs. Reagan and Bush, Peking is awaiting a "clarification" of Mr. Reagan's statements saying he wanted to establish "official relations" with Taiwan.
"Ronald Reagan tried to convince people that the United States can establish official relations with Taiwan while continuing friendly relations with the People's Republic of China. This is sheer deception," the People's Daily said in a short commentary on page 6 Aug. 19.
the commentary made China's position crystal clear. Although both Mr. Bush and Mr. Reagan's foreign policy adviser Richard V. Allen have emphasized that the Republican candidate is not advocating a two-China policy, the commentary makes plain that this is exactly how China regards the Reagan line.
"As is known to all," says the commentary, "the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States was based on the principle of United States recognition of the irrefutable fact that there is only one China, and Taiwan is its integral part.The restoration of 'official' relations with Taiwan today would in fact resuscitate the plot of creating 'two Chinas' that has gone bankrupt long ago.
"It is evident that this would in essence destroy the basic principle of the normalization of China-United States relations and surely affect the normalization itself."
From statements made during the Tokyo leg of his trip, and to reporters on the plane en route to Paking, it would appear Mr. Bush's explanations to the Chinese will encompass:
1. Sino-American relations must be looked at in an overall context, not just that of Taiwan. There is the common opposition to Soviet aggression, and the role the United States plays as "a deterrent to Soviet aggression." There is the United States commitment to expanding trade with China. Governor Reagan "enthusiastically supports" these points.
2. As for Taiwan, Governor Reagan's concern is for the safety of the island. There is no intention of "turning the clock back." Mr. Reagan contemplates breaking no new ground, proposing no new laws. He will operate strictly within the limits of the Taiwan Relations Act, which specifies that US relations with Taiwan shall be "nongovernmental."
What, then, exactly does Mr. Reagan propose to do? Do far Messrs. Bush and Allen have been vague. Mr. Reagan no longer supports the establishment of an official liaison mission to Taiwan, as he proposed while campaigning in Cleveland in May, according to Mr. Allen.
Yet he obviously is dissatisfied with the status quo in which US-Taiwan relations are conducted through nominally private foundations funded by Congress. As recently as Aug. 16, he called for the reestablishment of what he termed an "official governmental relationship" with Taiwan.
The Chinese have received Mr. Bush cordially, as befits a former head of a mission to Peking. (Initl the Carter administration normalized diplomatic relations at the end of 1978, Peking and Washington had "liaison missions" in each other's capitals.) He is being put up at the official state guest house -- Diao Yu Tai or the "Fishing Terrace." He is being given the usual banquet in the Great Hall of the People.
Peking does not want to be seeming to take sides in the US presidential contest. After all it was a Republication president, Richard Nixon, who made the first opening to China. But China's position regarding Taiwan has been consistent from the start.
It has been willing to cotemplate American trade with and investment in Taiwan, even to countenance the sale of American weapons to Taiwan (although it will not admit this openly). But government-to-government relations, official relations of any sort, are a different matter. That is a question touching on the oneness and indivisibility of China, which Peking says it cannot and will not compromise.