Thursday, October 11, 1973
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's visit to China got off to an unusually brisk start yesterday, with Mr. Trudeau moving swiftly from the elaborate ritual of his arrival to the first of his discussions with Premier Chou En-lai.
Abandoning a schedule that called for a brief planning session only, the two government leaders launched almost immediately into the substance of their talks in a meeting that was described as amiable, na duseful by a spokesman for the Canadian side.
By agreement, Mr. Trudeau led the 90-minute discussion with an exposition on Canada's position in the world and the foreign policy that flows from it. The spokesman said Mr. Chou listened intently, interrupting frequently with requests for facts or clarifications.
When the two leaders meet again this afternoon Mr. Trudeau will move into specifics, elaborating Canada's policies on the principal international issues of the day and outlining how he would like to see Canada's relationship with China develop.
It is at this point that the Middle East war will come up for discussion, with Mr. Trudeau arguing the case for an early ceasefire with some form of United Nations supervision. Mr. Chou is not expected to make a full statement of China's position on the war until the third session of talks tomorrow, when it will be his turn to give an exposition on China's foreign policy and its outlook for relations with Canada.
Given China's strident support in recent days for the right for Arabs to recover their lost territories by war, there can be little prospect of a meeting of minds on this issue. Nor can the two sides hope to reach a common position on the other international issue that will dominate the talks, detente in Europe, which the Chinese vigorously oppose.
Judging from the mood of the first day, however, it seems evident that neither side will allow their differing views on international issues to detract from the cordiality of the visit, which has been the subject of painstaking preparation designed to ensure that it will be fitting celebration of the new relationship the two countries have established in recent years.
That it will be such appears to be assured as a result of an agreement between the two leaders at yesterday's session to set their officials working on a series of concrete measures to promote bilateral relations.
A clutch of committees will work today on proposals to strengthen cooperation in the fields of science and technology, information and culture, trade and economics and consular and legal affairs.
Measures that have the support of both sides will be forwarded for endorsement by the two government leaders, who will announce them before the end of the visit, possibly through the medium of Mr. Trudeau's press conference tomorrow.
China's determination to make a success of the visit was reflected in the unusually expansive mood displayed by Premier Chou before his session with Mr. Trudeau. Chatting with Canadian reporters, he made pointed reference to the fact that Canada was the first North American country to establish diplomatic relations with China.
The meeting of the two leaders at the Great Hall came less than three hours after the Canadian Armed Forces Boeing 707 carrying the Trudeau party arrived at Peking airport at the end of the 1,500-mile flight from Tokyo, last leg of an 8,500 mile journey that was broken with an overnight stop in Japan.
The welcome prepared by the Chinese lived up to the occasion. A military band, an honor guard from the People's Liberation Army and about 5,000 gaily dressed youngsters were on hand when the aircraft touched down at 3:02 p.m., two minutes behind schedule after a flight guided from Japan by a Chinese navigator and radio operator.
Premier Chou and other Chinese leaders waited as the plane taxied to a stop outside the main terminal. After a wait of five minutes to allow members of the press party to disembark and take up their positions on specially ereceted bleachers, Mr. Trudeau and his wife Margaret appeared at the forward door, prompting a brief round of applause from the Chinese dignitaries.
What happened next was an interesting departure from the normal protocol. Instead of preceding his wife down the ramp to shake Premier Chou's hand, the Prime Minister descended the steps at the side of his wife and the two of them remained at each other's side throughout the ceremonies that followed. The gesture was most obvious when the dignitaries moved on from the handshakes to the playing of the national anthems.